For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Ghost in the Machine

by Dzimas
The Ghost Writer was a wonderful return for Roman Polanski after all the controversy generated over his house arrest in Switzerland. It got me thinking about some of the precedents Roman Polanski might have explored in making a movie like this. Is the movie a political thriller? Is it a murder mystery? Is it an ode to his self-imposed exile? Like with most of Polanski’s films, The Ghost Writer is open to interpretation, which makes it fun to revisit, and see if there was something more than might have met the eye upon first watching. My feeling is that all the political intrigue was a useful distraction for the finely plotted murder… Read more

The Ghost Writer was a wonderful return for Roman Polanski after all the controversy generated over his house arrest in Switzerland. It got me thinking about some of the precedents Roman Polanski might have explored in making a movie like this. Is the movie a political thriller? Is it a murder mystery? Is it an ode to his self-imposed exile?

Like with most of Polanski’s films, The Ghost Writer is open to interpretation, which makes it fun to revisit, and see if there was something more than might have met the eye upon first watching. My feeling is that all the political intrigue was a useful distraction for the finely plotted murder mystery. There is a masterful Hitchockian suspense to the film, reminiscent of some of Hitch’s greatest works like North by Northwest. But, there is no getting around the obvious political allusions here, that bring to mind some of the great political thrillers of the 70s like All the President’s Men.

It was rather obvious that Adam Lang was a direct reference to Tony Blair, and that his wife Ruth has more than a passing similarity to Blair’s wife, Cherie. Robert Harris may have explored this connection more fully in his best selling novel, but it seems to me that Polanski decides to leave well enough alone, and approach the relationship between Adam and Ruth more like that between Raymond Shaw and his mother in The Manchurian Candidate. Polanski’s movie is a much more interesting update of the classic 1962 film than was Jonathon Demme’s turgid melodrama.

What is also fascinating is how Polanski embeds his clues in the manuscript of Lang’s memoir. Polanski has long had a passion for a book’s hidden secrets, notably in his macabre films, Rosemary’s Baby and The Ninth Gate. Here again, we see the “book” become the key to deciphering the mystery that surrounds the death of the previous ghostwriter, who was found washed up on shore of Martha’s Vineyard, a favorite retreat for the Kennedy family. He casts the island in perpetual gloom, with a wonderful cameo by Eli Wallach that gives this film an equally macabre feel.

Just as intriguing was the way Polanski used the GPS tracking system in the scene where the “Ghost” follows McCarron’s final journey. Polanski creates a perfectly suspenseful sequence with Tom Wilkinson drolly perfect as the retired professor, Paul Emmett.

Here are a few movies that came to mind while watching this film.

Read less