Jean Paul Marat (Joaquin Phoenix) summons all ten ounces of humbleness within as he approaches Joseph Balsamo (Johnny Depp).
MARAT: "Did I really do something wrong?"
BALSAMO: "What you did wrong is that you don't think you could do anything wrong. It's called pride."
M: "I can tell you think little of me, Master, but I'm not one of the bad guys."
B: "I know you're not, Marat. Not yet. I see much good in you, this is why we're talking. But I also see much pride. Give me an hour, and I may save you from it."
M: "You got an hour twenty minutes if you want. You're the boss."
B: "Or the Master. I will visit your house tomorrow, then."
M: "My humble attic, Master? Should you? It's a simple pad of poverty."
M: "...Nothing at all like your magnificent fortress."
Balsamo half-smiles: "If you think I feel guilty about power, Marat, I have no idea how you made it through surgeon school. Talking of, I would like to follow you on your hospital duties."
M: "I start early, break of day. I sleep little."
B: "I sleep not at all."
And true to his insomniac boast, it's 6 o'clock the next morning when Balsamo knocks on the splintery door of an attic on the Rue Des Cordeliers, and the door swings open to reveal an old maid scrubbing the modest floors and Marat arranging withered flowers on a cracked pot.
Startled by Joseph's unannounced entrance, the young surgeon blushes.
M: "You notice, Master, that I see no shame in joining this common woman, Madame Grivette, in menial labor."
B: "It's called 'cleaning your own room', Marat. They don't give trophies for it. Shall we head off?"
M: "Let's. Madame Grivette, my hat and my cane!"
B: "Just reach out, the hat and the cane are next to you."
M: "All too true. Madame Grivette, my watch! I seem to have lost it. It's a valuable watch, and I feel naked without it."
B: "Let's not talk about you being naked. I'm sure Madame Grivette will have found it by the time we return. Where to first?"
M: "My lecture room next to the hospital. Oh, it's gonna be fun! This one man just died of meningitis, and I have dibs on his brain. It's a sight for mature audiences, so I understand if you want to close your eyes when we go in."
B: "Pride again. What do you know about the things I've seen?"
Our sorcerer is, in fact, more repulsed by Marat's undisguised glee upon entering the medical lecture room than by the two corpses that await on a marble table: a man and a woman, lying side by side, made ghostly by a dirty sheet that covers them. The man's face is lined, the woman's is youthful. Strangers in life, they're joined in matrimony by anatomy.
With theatrical rapacity, Marat snatches the soiled linen and throws it to the floor, and the naked and the dead are revealed to Balsamo.
M: (eyes a-twinkle) "Isn't it disgusting?"
B: "No. It's sad."
M: "You get used to it in my field. It's not sad, they're just statues made of meat."
B: "There's nothing to them."
M: "Not a thing."
B: "But they were once alive. What about their souls?"
M: "No such things in any of the people I've sliced open."
B: "Because you've only sliced open the dead."
M: "No, I've sliced plenty of living people. Pro bono."
B: "And you found nothing in the living?"
M: "I found pain."
B: "Maybe pain IS what makes a soul. Not a believer, are you?"
Marat shrugs: "I believe that something animates the living that is not found in the dead."
B: "The anima. The soul. You DO believe in something, then. In a life-giving source. I'm glad."
M: "Let me be direct, Master. If my scalpel can cut it, I believe in it. Otherwise..."
Balsamo ignores him, his hands making passes over the bodies, his voice strained: "They're cold. But look at her. She's so beautiful."
M: "I do draw the line at necrophilia."
B: "I meant that a lovely soul must have dwelt in this lovely body."
M: "You would think so. Lovely body, yes. She used to sell it for a coin and an apple every night, which got her lots of male friends and a nasty illness that made her brain swell up against the walls of her skull. If there's a thing like a soul, she had a nasty one."
Joseph shakes his head sadly: "You're wrong. She had a lovely soul, alright. I can tell. But also a wounded one, and she lacked a doctor who could heal THAT."
"Don't you understand?" Marat snarls. "No soul!" He tangles his fingers on the woman's hair. "No God!" He lifts her head off the table. "No NOTHING!" He releases the head, and with a loud thud it crashes back to the marble.
The words resound in the lecture room.