Saturday, January 26, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)

Torturing a point

(Warning: plot discussed in close detail)

For the record I think Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty is a terrifically made film. It's perhaps not quite entertainment (as Mr. Ebert points out), and as real-life depictions go perhaps not as entertaining as say Ben Affleck's Argo. But I like it all the more for that; there's a stubborn integrity to Bigelow's pacing of the film and staging of the attack itself that reflects something of her overall concept of the picture. 

Mind you, I do think Affleck has a concept: to tell in as widely appealing a fashion as possible the improbably true story of a rescue mission in Iran. I don't on the other hand think mass appeal was Bigelow's priority; Chastain's performance as Maya--the CIA agent who pursues Bin Laden (or UBL, as he's often nicknamed)--gives us a clue as to the nature of those priorities. 

We never see Maya watching the video footage of 9/11 or listen to the audio recordings, as Bigelow makes us do in the film's opening; that she saw and was shaken by the event the film treats as a given. When we do first see her, she's taken to one of the CIA's 'Black Sites' to interrogate a detainee, and you can see from her gestures and body language that she clearly doesn't want to be there, that she's forcing herself to watch the procedure; when asked for help, however, she gives the approved textbook reply: you can help yourself by talking. Her distaste is palpable, but the telling detail that stays with you is that she'll do her job, despite her lack of enthusiasm. 

For the next two hours she shows us two faces: the efficient, hyperintelligent CIA officer collating and interpreting data, the lonely young woman who mostly keeps to herself and confines her trust to a few co-workers (mainly Jennifer Ehle's Jessica, an unsung but finely crafted supporting performance). On one hand she's all business; on the other--well, you don't get much else. Jessica is Maya's 'confidante' only in that she relaxes before her friend, but doesn't really open up to her. Even to her closest friends--acquaintances, really--she keeps herself a cipher.

To paraphrase something the filmmakers have said in defense of the film: just because a character comes across as a cipher doesn't mean she is a cipher. Chastain's Maya is arguably the tensest, most compact, most tightly wrapped character I've seen in recent movies, a coiled spring that doesn't release its energy--not even when she's barking at her superior officer--for the majority of its hundred and fifty minute running time. She's closed off; she doesn't give us an ounce of warmth, nor ask for an ounce of understanding--when she's forcefully explaining why this or that isn't a good idea it's just the exact amount of force needed to sell her case. She gives you the impression of someone constantly holding back, holding back--mainly (you sense) because she's saving herself for her objective, for someone far off, not easily seen. If there's a passion in this film it's Maya's for UBL--and she never even lays her eyes on him till the very end.

Maya does confront a superior officer and it's her showiest moment, the one time when she yells at the top of her voice. But her response partly arises out of frustration: the man is standing in the way when she can smell that the objective is near. When Maya doesn't get what she wants, she gives loud information (it's also the film's least persuasive moment--as if the desperate threats of an underling could actually affect a superior's decision positively).

This I submit is the movie: not the attack itself, but the hundred and thirty or so minutes leading up to the attack. It has been pointed out how seemingly pointless and meandering the first half hour was; I thought the pointlessness was also the shape of the manhunt at the time--a lot of flailing about, a lot of groping in the dark (metaphorically and literally). Bigelow wanted to give us the flavor of the manhunt, a sense of how helpless they were at first, even to the point of almost losing us or boring us at various points in the film

The attack itself? Plenty of action setpieces this year--Affleck's nicely done airport chase in Argo; Tarantino's fairly competent bloodbaths in Django Unchained (inspired, I suspect, by the less bloody if wittier climactic massacre in Johnnie To's Exiled, among others); Whedon's exhilarating alien-army beat-down in The Avengers; Nolan's glummer, more drawn-out confrontation in The Dark Knight Rises; Paul Anderson's (W.S., not Thomas) balletic hijinks in Resident Evil: Retribution. Bigelow leaves them all in the dust--her considerable filmmaking chops make her one of the most visually intense filmmakers working in mainstream Hollywood today.  

Coming in I'd been given the mistaken impression that the assault would be seen entirely through the ghastly green of night vision goggles; actually it's a mix of POV footage and free-floating (like an anxiety) shots that follow the soldiers into the compound and up the stairs. The lighting is pitched just so: dark enough that you feel you need to squint to be sure of what you're seeing, bright enough that you really don't. The action only seems confusing; actually it comes together readily in your head, like a Steuben crystal shattering in reverse.

And tension--Bigelow stages the assault as conducted, with mostly the soldiers' voices and the occasional gunfire interrupting the eerie silence. Everything happens in real time, with little emphasis, ellipsis, even fuss; you have this sense of events held barely under control, careening just this side of the track.

Talking about Zero Dark Thirty strictly as an action thriller pretty much ignores the eight hundred pound anthropoid in the tent, namely the controversy about its depiction of torture. Reactions range from Glen Greenwald's indignant harumph that the filmmakers aren't being run out of town (the article having been written before he's seen the film ((to be fair, he's written more since)) to David Edelstein's more nuanced position that as "a moral statement, Zero Dark Thirty is borderline fascistic. As a piece of cinema, it’s phenomenally gripping—an unholy masterwork."

Somewhere in between it must be mentioned, if only because he's such a respected critic, is Slavoj Zizek's. Zizek is a brilliant thinker and wonderful writer but at times inconsistent, and I'd say this essay was written on one of his off days--instead of penetrating insight we have strident insistence, instead of inspired originality we have intoned principles about what one should or should not depict on film. Comparing torture to rape, he writes: "Our guts tell us that there is something terribly wrong here; I would like to live in a society where rape is simply considered unacceptable, so that anyone who argues for it appears an eccentric idiot, not in a society where one has to argue against it. The same goes for torture: a sign of ethical progress is the fact that torture is 'dogmatically' rejected as repulsive, without any need for argument."

The quotes suggest his view is more nuanced than the word 'dogma' suggests, but he doesn't elaborate; he mostly insists "there is only one answer." He doesn't help his cause by ignoring the possibility that perhaps the film does possess an anti-torture stance, and proceed from there; no, this is a problem that he insists must be nipped from the bud--no ifs, buts, or maybes.

Taking a cue from Zizek and his response, I can't help but notice that the film's loudest critics begin from the impression that the film depicts torture as a harsh but necessary step in finding UBL--which I find problematic; if you watch the film the issue doesn't seem all that simple.

The film's first interrogation scene, for example, involve a man named Ammar (Reda Kaleb). CIA officer Dan (Jason Clarke) subjects the man to hunger, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, close confinement, waterboarding; the man weakens, but doesn't crack. Later, Dan and Maya devise a trick that convinces Ammar that he did crack, and the man unwittingly gives up the name Abu Ahmed--UBL's trusted courier. The name is tricked not tortured out of the man.

 Edelstein doesn't buy that excuse. He clarifies that "it is only through waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc. (as well as a bit of trickery made possible by torture), that the CIA operatives learn of Bin Laden’s courier’s existence." The parenthetical phrase doesn't quite do justice to the scene's focal point--waterboarding doesn't get us the courier's name, subterfuge plus a plate of hummus does. Well, to be fair, a combination of torture and subterfuge does (an assertion Senator Diane Feinstein denies). If the film's critics have a case, it's strongest here.  

Then there's the film's second interrogation scene where Maya--this time lead interrogator--questions Abu Faraj (Yoav Levi), Al Qaeda's third most important officer, about Abu Ahmed. Faraj doesn't crack; Maya's next lead involving Abu Ahmed has to come much later, through other, non-torturous means. If the film is meant to follow Maya's growth into full-blown espionage warrior, with the skills and determination to take down UBL, one might say she has just learned the lesson that torture doesn't always get results.

Arguably the strongest, most explicit statement made against torture in the film is given during Maya's confrontation with her boss, Pakistan bureau chief Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler). He tells her that 1) the information she got from the tortured detainees is suspect, and 2) No one is interested in Bin Laden anymore.

Bigelow's critics would probably be less critical if Bradley's words were given greater weight--if, say, Bradley clarified why the information is suspect (people will say anything to stop the pain), or why Bin Laden is less relevant (Al Qaeda has grown beyond the man into a multifranchise, semiautonomous entity). Maybe it would be too much to expect the film to stop and ponder America's loss of moral stature for indulging in torture--but such a scene would have helped. 

Every day Maya writes a number on his office window--a number representing the days they have waited for their superiors' decision to move on UBL's presumed hiding place (a compound in the suburbs of Abbottabad, Pakistan); every day Bradley could have (but doesn't) point out that the delay is partly caused by doubts about the evidence she collected, partly through torture. Again, the point could have been made more explicit--but Bigelow was apparently avoiding explicit political points while not stinting on the pain and violence

Then the ending: the soldiers come back from the attack to a large tent and lay out their booty of computer disks, manila file folders, and a single body bag. They're in a subdued mood, as if not quite believing what they've just accomplished; one of them whoops in triumph, and the sound almost sounds sacrilegious. Maya walks past them, past the goodies being spilled out of sacks, past the smell of testosterone and triumph, towards the single body bag lying on a gurney in one end.

It's possible to read the tear on Maya's cheek two ways: a Rolling Stone writer dismisses it with a comparison to the ending of The Princess Bride ("I've been in the revenge business for so long...I don't know what to do with the rest of my life"); it's also possible to read it--and yes, I'm aware I can be accused by Rolling Stone of 'reading it in'--as an unworded rebuke of her goals, of the whole 'revenge business,' a perhaps more muted version of Kurtz's reaction in Conrad's Heart of Darkness ("The horror! The horror!"). She looks at what she's done, at all the years and effort expended, at all the faces who suffered before her, and she feels regret--involuntary, as tears often are; she feels regret despite herself. The End--no inspiring music, no waving flag or hint that the world has been bettered or improved by the killing of a great evil; just a black screen, and credits.

By way of comparison, if I find the business far less palatable in Tarantino's Django Unchained it's because of this: considering all the suffering slaves have endured, the only response Tarantino can think up for them is revenge? Kicking redneck ass--that it? If--if--we can read Maya's tears to signify the second meaning, then Bigelow's film at least acknowledges the possibility that there's more to life than this revenge business.

 Interesting to compare Maya to Sgt. James in Bigelow's previous The Hurt Locker. Both take an unholy interest in their careers; both are profoundly empty without their careers to define them. I liked The Hurt Locker a lot (better than her ex-husband's work that same year), but as I note in my own article Sgt. James simply doesn't make sense. If Maya's a more persuasive character than James that's because Bigelow makes her even more of a cipher than our EOD expert (She says she has no friends or boyfriend but does she at least have family? A one-night stand she can call up occasionally?), and we can read all kinds of useful things into her tabula rasa character.

There are two reviews I find especially useful in thinking about the film--or at least, two reviews with especially interesting views: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's thoughtful meditation on the film as a thoughtful meditation on representation--how an image or digital recording is often taken as the object or person himself, and how the film really depicts a self-perpetuating process that gathers data by a variety of means, both low and high tech. "Bin Laden..." Ignatiy writes, "is the last real-world foe, and he is defeated by being turned into abstracted data." I don't know about 'last,' but that 'abstracted data' bit has a chillingly prophetic air. 

David Phelps' take not only digs deeper into Vishnevetsky's ideas, but also manages to implicitly criticize the article. He asserts that while Bigelow's film talks a lot about process and shows much of the surface workings, it doesn't give us a real understanding the way Roberto Rossellini or Otto Preminger does. If anything Bigelow presents the story as being less about the CIA and more about Maya, about her need to get the job done; the director focuses on the human-sized drama, with humans doing the heavy lifting; government organizations mostly get in the way--are good only for the goodies they bring (stealthy attack helicopters, SEAL specialists) to the table. It's an old-fashioned action-movie trope, one Bigelow has used in many of her films (The Hurt Locker being the first title to come to mind). Phelps also points out that for all the intensity and realism of the torture sequences (a realism some have questioned (though their own motives have also been questioned)) it ultimately soft-pedals the horror: Jean Luc Godard's depiction in Le Petit Soldat is easily worse. 

So--the torture question? Which I trust I've tortured past point and patience with links and consideration of as many views as I can collect? I'm unsurprisingly somewhere in the middle: I think the film isn't as clueless as to believe torture is crucial to the hunt, nor do I think Bigelow endorses it as such; on the other hand I do think she was caught flatfooted by the controversy, that it wasn't her intention to have the interrogation scenes be the target of so much scrutiny, that she was and is unaware of the larger implications her film represents. If she had to do it all again, she would probably make her stance more explicit the way she does in her article, allowing us to focus on the rest of the film as was intended. 

Perhaps Phelp's most potent questions ask Zero Dark Thirty's real relevance to the larger issues: was Bin Laden such an important target (the ghost of Bradley's assertions, resurrected)? Should we be content with this shallow depiction of war, without casting a more critical eye on the processes and institutions behind (Bigelow being no Rossellini or Preminger--come to think of it, who is?)? Doesn't the film's real story go something like this: that enhanced interrogations involving physical and psychological (though no less concrete) torture have given way to the high-tech collection of Big Data, and the idea that this development is the answer to all our problems is possibly the most falsely comforting and hence most dangerous idea of all? 


Afterword: Let's be clear--I'm not warning people away from Big Data towards more primitive techniques (am not advocating enhanced interrogations at all!). Big Data has after all solved quite a few recent problems for quite a few people--a baseball team comes to mind, and an incumbent president. What I do think we should watch out for--and what I think Phelps warns us about--is putting complete faith on Big Data, the way say the Bush Administration put much of its faith at one point on enhanced interrogation. We should handle any new science with caution and not a little skepticism, keeping in mind that any relatively new science--and scientists themselves due to the nature of their profession are mindful of this--will have flaws and blind spots. Fools rush know how it goes.

(reedited 1.28.13)

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Juniper Tree (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm)

 Posting this, one of the loveliest, most horrifying stories I have ever known. Don't know why, it just captures how I feel nowadays

The Juniper Tree

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Long ago, at least two thousand years, there was a rich man who had a beautiful and pious wife, and they loved each other dearly. However, they had no children, though they wished very much to have some, and the woman prayed for them day and night, but they didn't get any, and they didn't get any. 

In front of their house there was a courtyard where there stood a juniper tree. One day in winter the woman was standing beneath it, peeling herself an apple, and while she was thus peeling the apple, she cut her finger, and the blood fell into the snow.

"Oh," said the woman. She sighed heavily, looked at the blood before her, and was most unhappy. "If only I had a child as red as blood and as white as snow." And as she said that, she became quite contented, and felt sure that it was going to happen. 

Then she went into the house, and a month went by, and the snow was gone. And two months, and everything was green. And three months, and all the flowers came out of the earth. And four months, and all the trees in the woods grew thicker, and the green branches were all entwined in one another, and the birds sang until the woods resounded and the blossoms fell from the trees. Then the fifth month passed, and she stood beneath the juniper tree, which smelled so sweet that her heart jumped for joy, and she fell on her knees and was beside herself. And when the sixth month was over, the fruit was thick and large, and then she was quite still. And after the seventh month she picked the juniper berries and ate them greedily. Then she grew sick and sorrowful. Then the eighth month passed, and she called her husband to her, and cried, and said, "If I die, then bury me beneath the juniper tree." Then she was quite comforted and happy until the next month was over, and then she had a child as white as snow and as red as blood, and when she saw it, she was so happy that she died.

Her husband buried her beneath the juniper tree, and he began to cry bitterly. After some time he was more at ease, and although he still cried, he could bear it. And some time later he took another wife.

He had a daughter by the second wife, but the first wife's child was a little son, and he was as red as blood and as white as snow. When the woman looked at her daughter, she loved her very much, but then she looked at the little boy, and it pierced her heart, for she thought that he would always stand in her way, and she was always thinking how she could get the entire inheritance for her daughter. 

And the Evil One filled her mind with this until she grew very angry with the little boy, and she pushed him from one corner to the other and slapped him here and cuffed him there, until the poor child was always afraid, for when he came home from school there was nowhere he could find any peace.

One day the woman had gone upstairs to her room, when her little daughter came up too, and said, "Mother, give me an apple."

"Yes, my child," said the woman, and gave her a beautiful apple out of the chest. The chest had a large heavy lid with a large sharp iron lock.

"Mother," said the little daughter, "is brother not to have one too?"
This made the woman angry, but she said, "Yes, when he comes home from school."

When from the window she saw him coming, it was as though the Evil One came over her, and she grabbed the apple and took it away from her daughter, saying, "You shall not have one before your brother."

She threw the apple into the chest, and shut it. Then the little boy came in the door, and the Evil One made her say to him kindly,  

"My son, do you want an apple?" And she looked at him fiercely.

"Mother," said the little boy, "how angry you look. Yes, give me an apple."

Then it seemed to her as if she had to persuade him. "Come with me," she said, opening the lid of the chest. "Take out an apple for yourself." And while the little boy was leaning over, the Evil One prompted her, and crash! she slammed down the lid, and his head flew off, falling among the red apples.

Then fear overcame her, and she thought, "Maybe I can get out of this." So she went upstairs to her room to her chest of drawers, and took a white scarf out of the top drawer, and set the head on the neck again, tying the scarf around it so that nothing could be seen. Then she set him on a chair in front of the door and put the apple in his hand.

After this Marlene came into the kitchen to her mother, who was standing by the fire with a pot of hot water before her which she was stirring around and around.

"Mother," said Marlene, "brother is sitting at the door, and he looks totally white and has an apple in his hand. I asked him to give me the apple, but he did not answer me, and I was very frightened."

"Go back to him," said her mother, "and if he will not answer you, then box his ears."

So Marlene went to him and said, "Brother, give me the apple." But he was silent, so she gave him one on the ear, and his head fell off. Marlene was terrified, and began crying and screaming, and ran to her mother, and said, "Oh, mother, I have knocked my brother's head off," and she cried and cried and could not be comforted.

"Marlene," said the mother, "what have you done? Be quiet and don't let anyone know about it. It cannot be helped now. We will cook him into stew."

Then the mother took the little boy and chopped him in pieces, put him into the pot, and cooked him into stew. But Marlene stood by crying and crying, and all her tears fell into the pot, and they did not need any salt.

Then the father came home, and sat down at the table and said, 

"Where is my son?" And the mother served up a large, large dish of stew, and Marlene cried and could not stop.

Then the father said again, "Where is my son?"

"Oh," said the mother, "he has gone across the country to his mother's great uncle. He will stay there awhile."

"What is he doing there? He did not even say good-bye to me."

"Oh, he wanted to go, and asked me if he could stay six weeks. He will be well taken care of there."

"Oh," said the man, "I am unhappy. It isn't right. He should have said good-bye to me." With that he began to eat, saying, "Marlene, why are you crying? Your brother will certainly come back." Then he said, "Wife, this food is delicious. Give me some more." And the more he ate the more he wanted, and he said, "Give me some more. You two shall have none of it. It seems to me as if it were all mine." And he ate and ate, throwing all the bones under the table, until he had finished it all.

Marlene went to her chest of drawers, took her best silk scarf from the bottom drawer, and gathered all the bones from beneath the table and tied them up in her silk scarf, then carried them outside the door, crying tears of blood.

She laid them down beneath the juniper tree on the green grass, and after she had put them there, she suddenly felt better and did not cry anymore.

Then the juniper tree began to move. The branches moved apart, then moved together again, just as if someone were rejoicing and clapping his hands. At the same time a mist seemed to rise from the tree, and in the center of this mist it burned like a fire, and a beautiful bird flew out of the fire singing magnificently, and it flew high into the air, and when it was gone, the juniper tree was just as it had been before, and the cloth with the bones was no longer there. Marlene, however, was as happy and contented as if her brother were still alive. And she went merrily into the house, sat down at the table, and ate.

Then the bird flew away and lit on a goldsmith's house, and began to sing:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

The goldsmith was sitting in his workshop making a golden chain, when he heard the bird sitting on his roof and singing. The song seemed very beautiful to him. He stood up, but as he crossed the threshold he lost one of his slippers. However, he went right up the middle of the street with only one slipper and one sock on. He had his leather apron on, and in one hand he had a golden chain and in the other his tongs. The sun was shining brightly on the street.

He walked onward, then stood still and said to the bird, "Bird," he said, "how beautifully you can sing. Sing that piece again for me."

"No," said the bird, "I do not sing twice for nothing. Give me the golden chain, and then I will sing it again for you."

The goldsmith said, "Here is the golden chain for you. Now sing that song again for me." Then the bird came and took the golden chain in his right claw, and went and sat in front of the goldsmith, and sang:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I

Then the bird flew away to a shoemaker, and lit on his roof and sang:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

Hearing this, the shoemaker ran out of doors in his shirtsleeves, and looked up at his roof, and had to hold his hand in front of his eyes to keep the sun from blinding him. "Bird," said he, "how beautifully you can sing."

Then he called in at his door, "Wife, come outside. There is a bird here. Look at this bird. He certainly can sing." Then he called his daughter and her children, and the journeyman, and the apprentice, and the maid, and they all came out into the street and looked at the bird and saw how beautiful he was, and what fine red and green feathers he had, and how his neck was like pure gold, and how his eyes shone like stars in his head.

"Bird," said the shoemaker, "now sing that song again for me."

"No," said the bird, "I do not sing twice for nothing. You must give me something."

"Wife," said the man, "go into the shop. There is a pair of red shoes on the top shelf. Bring them down." Then the wife went and brought the shoes.

"There, bird," said the man, "now sing that piece again for me." 

Then the bird came and took the shoes in his left claw, and flew back to the roof, and sang:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

When he had finished his song he flew away. In his right claw he had the chain and in his left one the shoes. He flew far away to a mill, and the mill went clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack. In the mill sat twenty miller's apprentices cutting a stone, and chiseling chip-chop, chip-chop, chip-chop. And the mill went clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.

Then the bird went and sat on a linden tree which stood in front of the mill, and sang:

My mother, she killed me,
Then one of them stopped working.

My father, he ate me,
Then two more stopped working and listened,

My sister Marlene,
Then four more stopped,

Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,

Now only eight only were chiseling,

Laid them beneath
Now only five,

the juniper tree,
Now only one,

Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.
Then the last one stopped also, and heard the last words. "Bird," said he, "how beautifully you sing. Let me hear that too. Sing it once more for me."

"No," said the bird, "I do not sing twice for nothing. Give me the millstone, and then I will sing it again."

"Yes," he said, "if it belonged only to me, you should have it."

"Yes," said the others, "if he sings again he can have it."

Then the bird came down, and the twenty millers took a beam and lifted the stone up. Yo-heave-ho! Yo-heave-ho! Yo-heave-ho!

The bird stuck his neck through the hole and put the stone on as if it were a collar, then flew to the tree again, and sang:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

When he was finished singing, he spread his wings, and in his right claw he had the chain, and in his left one the shoes, and around his neck the millstone. He flew far away to his father's house.

In the room the father, the mother, and Marlene were sitting at the table.

The father said, "I feel so contented. I am so happy."

"Not I," said the mother, "I feel uneasy, just as if a bad storm were coming."

But Marlene just sat and cried and cried.

Then the bird flew up, and as it seated itself on the roof, the father said, "Oh, I feel so truly happy, and the sun is shining so beautifully outside. I feel as if I were about to see some old acquaintance again."

"Not I," said the woman, "I am so afraid that my teeth are chattering, and I feel like I have fire in my veins." And she tore open her bodice even more. Marlene sat in a corner crying. She held a handkerchief before her eyes and cried until it was wet clear through.

Then the bird seated itself on the juniper tree, and sang:

My mother, she killed me,
The mother stopped her ears and shut her eyes, not wanting to see or hear, but there was a roaring in her ears like the fiercest storm, and her eyes burned and flashed like lightning.

My father, he ate me,
"Oh, mother," said the man, "that is a beautiful bird. He is singing so splendidly, and the sun is shining so warmly, and it smells like pure cinnamon."

My sister Marlene,
Then Marlene laid her head on her knees and cried and cried, but the man said, "I am going out. I must see the bird up close."

"Oh, don't go," said the woman, "I feel as if the whole house were shaking and on fire." 

But the man went out and looked at the bird. 

Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

With this the bird dropped the golden chain, and it fell right around the man's neck, so exactly around it that it fit beautifully. Then the man went in and said, "Just look what a beautiful bird that is, and what a beautiful golden chain he has given me, and how nice it looks."

But the woman was terrified. She fell down on the floor in the room, and her cap fell off her head. Then the bird sang once more:

My mother killed me.
"I wish I were a thousand fathoms beneath the earth, so I would not have to hear that!"

My father, he ate me,
Then the woman fell down as if she were dead.

My sister Marlene,
"Oh," said Marlene, "I too will go out and see if the bird will give me something." Then she went out.

Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,

He threw the shoes down to her.

Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

Then she was contented and happy. She put on the new red shoes and danced and leaped into the house. "Oh," she said, "I was so sad when I went out and now I am so contented. That is a splendid bird, he has given me a pair of red shoes." 

"No," said the woman, jumping to her feet and with her hair standing up like flames of fire, "I feel as if the world were coming to an end. I too, will go out and see if it makes me feel better."
And as she went out the door, crash! the bird threw the millstone on her head, and it crushed her to death.

The father and Marlene heard it and went out. Smoke, flames, and fire were rising from the place, and when that was over, the little brother was standing there, and he took his father and Marlene by the hand, and all three were very happy, and they went into the house, sat down at the table, and ate.

Text taken from this website