Being With Cows

FEATURE FILM (Draft 2 script available)

The centenary anniversary of Katherine Mansfield’s death is approaching (9 Jan 2023). This film is a fact-based fictional account of Mansfield’s final days spent with the Armenian-Greek mystic Gurdjieff, and his commune of refugees, bohemians and animals in the forest of Fontainebleau, France.

Screenplay by Gaylene Barnes

”Life is, all at one and the same time, far more mysterious, and far simpler than we know." Katherine Mansfield


A desperate hope for miraculous healing drives consumptive writer Katherine Mansfield to join a mystic cult in the forests of France (1922). Instead she accepts her unavoidable death and seizes the simple life offered.


Period (1922), Biography, Romance

"One element that is absolutely gorgeous and important to the story is the script’s attention to detail in setting the scene once at Gurdjieff’s retreat ... it will all look stunning on screen and stand out from other period stories." Screencraft, 2021. Score: 7-8/10


Infected with an advanced case of tuberculosis, celebrated modernist author KATHERINE MANSFIELD is dying. It is 1922. She is enraptured with the mysticism of Russian PIOTR OUSPENSKY and Armenian GEORGE GURDJIEFF much to her husband JACK MIDDLETON MURRY’s disapproval, it drives a wedge between them. Katherine is determined to find spiritual and physical healing, thus she escapes the isolation of Parisian hotels, failed 19C treatments and her husband and friends to enter Gurdjieff’s bohemian commune in a French forest. Katherine arrives at the derelict, but beautiful Le Prieuré chateau, and meets a quirky cast of characters and animals. Gurdjieff’s unconventional methods help her understand the reality of her situation. She is instructed to spend time in the stable with the dairy cows and not to write or to dream. But she misses her husband and envisions the romantic life they might have together, one day, when she is cured – a romantic vision of a simple rural life in a pretty cottage. But it is a false story. Gurdjieff advises her to peel carrots and shell walnuts instead. After three months of nourishing food, mystical dance and lively company she has grown in strength and thinks a miraculous healing has happened. But the resident doctor JAMES YOUNG informs her otherwise, her heart is extremely weak and the ‘cheese’ has spread to other organs, she is soon to die. Jack finally arrives at Le Prieuré. The sudden shock of his presence threatens to evaporate her new reality. Jack wants to take her away from this terrible ‘hypnotist’ and back to their false life and the impossible dream. Katherine accepts she is near death and only wishes to be reconciled with him. Gurdjieff and Katherine discuss how to spend one’s last hours – Katherine explains that sometimes the truth needs to be wrapped up in a story? She lies to her husband about her health, telling him she is cured and ready for their romantic life …. this small fiction unites them. Katherine chooses to spend everything she has earned at Le Prieuré – the last of her health and her being – on one short day of real life and love with her husband. For one day they embody the life they had always wanted together. They sweep out the stable muck, they collect pine cones, they make compost – for them this is paradise, it is a real life. She ends the day dancing up the stairs where she collapses and dies in happiness, January 2023.

It is the middle of the night, the streets are empty.  The hotel facade of the ‘Select Hotel’ glimmers in the lamplight.  All the windows are dark except for one.  There is a light in a room on the third floor.
‘My life is a damnable montage.  An insufferably slow one, without any flow or whole.’
‘I must tell you about the bees – we shall have bees.’
Bridget walks over to the barn door window to look out. ‘Why does one live so far away from all these things?’
SALZMANN ‘Today ‘sit’, tomorrow Shakespeare! I am very hopeful!’
KM ‘Those two seem your best hope. Not sure about Stripey there… He seems to have a rebellious spirit.’
SALZMANN ‘Dont be quick to judge! Adriana is devoted to me.’