Fool of God by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

Fool of God

An old Belgian peasant loses his entire family to the Germans in one day during the First World War—only to be confronted by questions of God, man, and self.



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Based On: 
a 1915 one-act play by Eugene O'Neill titled "The Sniper"

"Fool of God" is set in the Belgian countryside in September of 1914, when the German army marched through that small nation without permission—destroying villages, pillaging the land, and killing the people—in order to attack France during the First World War. The script begins when its main character, a sixty-five-year-old farmer named Rougon, enters carrying the dead body of his son, a Belgian soldier, which he has recovered from a skirmish with German forces near his home. His home—a cottage—has been visibly destroyed from some kind of attack, forcing Rougon to enter through a hole in the back wall. As part of the script’s visual and aural texture, cannons boom in the distance.

As Rougon mourns his son’s death, the village priest passes the cottage, sees him, and enters, trying to give comfort with the words, “There, there, my son! It is the will of God.” One learns that Rougon’s son was soon to be married, and that earlier that day he had successfully urged his mother and fiancée to leave for the safer capital, Brussels, in anticipation of a possible attack. The priest continues to try to comfort with some unhelpful ministerial responses, as we see Rougon’s anger and sense of victimization grow. One learns, as well, that Rougon’s anger is part of his nature when he tells the priest that he had promised his son he would not touch his own rifle, because his son feared the father would do something rash.

However, when a shell-shocked peasant boy who had been traveling with the mother and fiancée enters and reveals that the two women were killed by an enemy artillery explosion on the road, Rougon realizes he has lost everything, gets his rifle, and begins shooting at a group of German troops who are approaching his ruined cottage. The village priest tries to stop the distraught man in the name of God, but Rougon has passed the point of no return, responding simply with “Bah, God!” as he hits two soldiers. German troops quickly arrive at the house, and the Captain, who appeared earlier when he told the priest to make it known that “Civilians caught with arms will be immediately shot,” comes to enforce his orders.

As Rougon is about to be executed and his family thus made extinct, the village priest tells him to make his peace with God, to which Rougon responds by spitting on the floor, shouting, “That for your God who allows such things to happen!” Then Rougon tells the Captain he is ready. After Rougon is shot by a firing squad, the Captain turns to the horrified priest, shrugs his shoulders, and exits along with his men; the priest looks down with compassion at the still bodies of Rougon and his son; and the peasant boy weeps from a pile of wreckage in a corner of the cottage, uttering the words, “Oh, God. Oh, God,” as "Fool of God" ends.

Submitted: October 26, 2020
Last Updated: October 26, 2020

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R. J. Cardullo's picture

The Writer: R. J. Cardullo

A former university film teacher, I turned to screenwriting several years ago. I have also written film criticism for many publications. A New Yorker by birth, I grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, Tulane, and Yale. My last U.S. address was in Milford, Connecticut; I am now an expatriate residing in Scandinavia. Many of my scripts (both long and short) are adaptations of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I am happy to re-write, collaborate, or write on demand. Thanks kindly for any attention you can give my work. Go to bio

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