Directed by Roman Polanski
A few years ago I went through this phase where I was utterly in love with every film created by Jean-Luc Godard. “Breathless”, “Pierrot Le Fou”, “Alphaville”, “Contempt”, basically anything from his early career. I just couldn’t get enough. The man is as talented and artsy as a filmmaker can get, and even in his later (and arguably much less noteworthy) works, he’s at least always remained a man who challenges himself to do something different. I’m telling you this only because I’m more or less going through that same phase with Roman Polanski now. And Polanski also shares another similarity with Godard (besides both of them being beloved in France) he’s always challenging himself with each new movie.
On first inspection, “The Ghost Writer” seems like the exact opposite of that declaration. If anything, trailers for the film more or less sell it as the most mainstream film Polanski has ever made. And with a cast made up of Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, and Kim Cattrall, it’s admittedly hard to argue against that. But if you take a moment and let everything that Polanski is trying to accomplish with this movie sink in while you’re watching it, you can see that nothing could be further from the truth. Despite being sold as a fast paced political thriller, “The Ghost Writer” is almost the exact opposite. It’s slow, and yes, it’s about politics, but not in the sense that there’s an evil politician that must be stopped. Instead the film decides to look at how morally ambiguous the entire concept of politics is (again, admittedly not a first) and remains undecided on who was right, and who was wrong. The film doesn’t really make a stand and say that this way is better than that way. It presents both sides and leaves it up to the audience to decide for themselves what they believe. Like the work of Godard, Polanski decides to challenge us, instead of spoon-feeding us what he wants us to believe. And throughout all of this we get the lovely artistic flare that Polanski has always been known for, but this time we get it filmed with HD cameras. (Which depending on your stance for digital vs. film is either a good or bad thing.) And no one but Polanski would have the balls to end this film the way he does.
Plus, how badass is it that the man finished editing this film while under house arrest?