98) The Ghost Writer (2009) Dir: Roman Polanski Date Released: February 2010 Date Seen: March 14, 2010 Rating: 4/5
When people write about Roman Polanski's films, I'm always surprised to see them downplay or even willfully ignore their playfully grim, absurdist sense of humor. The Ghost Writer reminds me of The Tenant in that sense: a serious thriller that revolves around the psychological disintegration of its main character. What's so rewardingly absurd about it is that Polanski and his screenwriters take the time to tease the reader with the preposterousness of the escalating scenario that Ewan Macgregor's protag finds himself trapped in. The plight of the "ghost writer" in this film is that he's stuck in a landscape of totally abstracted images--of politics, of nature, of social dynamics. These images clash and don't add up, creating a sense of disorientation akin to the urban paranoia of The Tenant. Though the movie is based on a novel by Robert Harris, I can't help but think that the story is a product of Polanski. The "ghost writer," an apathetic, eager young man who has no interest in politics, is punished for blindly accepting a job without considering its implications. The entitled hubris of youth is something Polanski has fixated on for decades now, making The Ghost Writer an exciting return to form.
The pervasive malevolence of Polanski's latest stems from how well he runs with the idea of hiding things in plain sight. When the ghost writer enters the beach home of the ex-Prime minister (Pierce Brosnan), the he's greeted by incongruous, disorienting architecture, differing modernist styles that aggressively butt heads in each room and refuse to cohere into a singular vision. The house lacks transparency, which is sort of a joke considering that there are wall-to-wall windows overlooking the beach everywhere and every room and hallways appears open and uncluttered thanks to its spare furniture. There doesn't appear to be anything hidden there but that's the point. The evidence that the ghost writer seeks throughout the movie is hidden in the most obvious place, (SPOILERS) in the first words of the chapters of his subject's memoirs. Once he figures out the truth, the ghost writer of course gets hit by a car (END SPOILERS). It's all so random and yet all so sinister because it's not. People can call this film an "old school thriller" i they like but it is uniquely Polanski's kind of old school. It oozes his own brand of paranoia and resentment throughout its elegant but ultimately fruitless procedural plot. Oh so good.