Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer / The Ghost Writer. FR/DE/GB (c) 2009 RP Films / France 2 Cinéma / Elfte Babelsberg Film / Runteam. Year of release: 2010. P: Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski, Alain Sarde. D+SC: Roman Polanski - adaptation: Robert Harris - based on his novel The Ghost (2007, translated into Finnish as Haamukirjoittaja by Seppo Raudaskoski / Otava 2008). DP: Pawel Edelman - negative 35 mm - digital intermediate - released on 35 mm and as a DCP - 2,35:1. PD: Albrecht Konrad. Cost: Dinah Collin. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Thomas Desjonquères. ED: Hervé de Luze. Studio: Babelsberg Studios. Loc: Rømø, Sylt, Usedom, [brief inserts from Massachusetts and London]. Cast: Ewan McGregor (The Ghost), Pierce Brosnan (Adam Lang), Olivia Williams (Ruth Lang), Kim Cattrall (Amelia Bly), Jon Bernthal (Rick Ricardelli), Tim Preece (Roy), James Belushi (John Maddox), Timothy Hutton (Sidney Kroll), Tom Wilkinson (Paul Emmett), Eli Wallach (Vineyard old man). 128 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Joanna Erkkilä. Viewed at Bio Bristol, Helsinki, 29 May 2010.

Digital intermediate look obvious (loss of detail in the nature footage).

Roman Polanski is in excellent form in this political thriller, in full command of the rhythm and with a fine sense of suspense and of the uncanny. The most haunting images are unobtrusive and laconic.

Although The Ghost Writer is quality entertainment, I don't find in it a profound insight in politics. Rather I find its cynicism facile and the conspiracy formula dated. Reality is more disturbing and the world of secret services more ineffective than this.

The nameless ghost writer hired to edit the memoirs of Adam Lang, the ex-Prime Minister of Britain, finds the hidden truth: Ruth Lang, Adam's wife, is a CIA agent, and this explains how Britain has become a puppet for the USA.

This revelation means that The Ghost Writer is potentially also a political satire and a caricature of a Swiftian magnitude. However, the caricature dimension remains undeveloped, not much more than a MacGuffin (Hitchcock's term for a fatal secret necessary for the plot, such as the uranium in Notorious, although the story is not really about it).

Adam Lang is "a man without qualities", an actor who can give a superb performance on television. Nobody really knows him, not even his own wife, and this is what puzzles the ghost writer most. The story is about multiple ghosts. The writer is a successor to his mysteriously deceased predecessor, whose remaining clues lead him to the revelation. He is also a ghost for Adam Lang, who is ghosting Ruth Lang, through whom Britain has become a ghost for the USA.

Pierce Brosnan portrays the shallow Adam Lang well. Ewan McGregor has a great presence as the hack writer whose conscience is awakened. The ex-Prime Minister's women as portrayed by Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall remain inscrutable through no fault of the actresses.

Pawel Edelman has a fine sense of composition, and it was great to study the magnificent scope images from the balcony of Bio Bristol (too bad about the digital intermediate). Alexandre Desplat has created an impressive original score. Hervé de Luze knows how to edit.

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