The Ghost Writer

Last night at the Sarajevo Film Festival, the Fairies and I took ourselves off to Novi Grad to see The Ghost Writer, a middling-to-good film based on a captivating premise: what the hell was Tony Blair thinking when he took the UK to war?

Based on Thomas Harris’s novel, here it’s a fictional former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), who’s holed up in a borrowed house on a wintry barrier island. He hires a ghost writer (Ewan MacGregor) to re-write his non-threatening, non-controversial but eagerly awaited memoirs. But there’s foul play involved, a pending War Crimes trial, the CIA, extraordinary Rendition, Iraq, murder, the whiff of an affair, an evidently more shrewd, capable and ruthless wife. Olivia Williams once again just acts every one else off the screen, she’s transcendent as the brainy, brittle, forthright former First Lady.

The next question though, is where do you shoot a film that’s set mostly in the United States, and with strong themes of American influence and interference, if you’re a director charged with child rape and can’t step foot on American soil without being whisked away to the Big House without so much as a by-you-leave. Well, the clues are found in the co-production partners; this Anglo-French-German deal is apparently the most expensive ever made. And so, standing in for Martha’s Vineyard, I give you the North Sea island of Sylt, dressed up with all sorts of American paraphenalia including telephone poles (they’re underground in Germany, apparently.) It works, almost. The main house was constructed on a Studio Babelsberg set – and so even though I can attest to the brutality of the North Sea in Winter – the views from the windows were actually green-screened. Jerry Garrett has a good blog post about how it all came together.

One last thing: I completely loathed the casting of Kim Catrall as the English pa / love interest; where oh where was Rosamund Pike? She’s both drop dead AND business frosty (and genuinely English) AND a cracking good actress. Now that chemistry – with both Lang and his wife – would have been both crackling and authentic.

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