Saturday, March 27, 2010

“The Ghostwriter”: Polanski’s Thumb in the U.S.’s Eye

Last night, we saw Roman Polanski’s new film, “The Ghostwriter.” It operates on two levels, as an exciting, scary thriller, and as Polanski’s indictment of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the Iraq war, and the C.I.A.’s role as enabler of torture.
Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a recent British Prime Minister, has retired to Martha’s Vineyard with his American wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams). The ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) is hired to revise and finish Lang’s memoirs after the unexpected drowning off the ferry of the first ghost, who was also one of Lang’s employees and a confidant. Lang is clearly meant to be seen as a Tony Blair stand-in, and his troubles and those of the ghostwriter soon increase as Lang is targeted by the International Court of Justice as a possible war criminal for aiding the C.I.A. in its rendition and torture of terrorism suspects. The ghostwriter soon finds that his predecessor had acquired damning evidence of the C.I.A.’s connection to Lang, but, of course, as soon as the ghostwriter learns this, his life is endangered by the C.I.A.’s shadowy thugs, who, on orders from higher-ups, wish to keep Lang’s nefarious activities secret.
Polanski’s unhappiness with America has, of course, been much in the news lately with his resistance to returning to the U.S. to be sentenced for his guilty plea of “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 13-year-old girl. This movie seems to be his reaction to this experience of “the American Way of Life.” The movie indicates that the U.S.’s leading role on the world stage is enabled by war, murder, and torture. After watching this all-too-believable thriller, it’s hard not to agree with him. Indeed, even paranoids have enemies.


Bob said...

I found "The Ghostwriter" to be one of the best films I have seen recently as well as being unusual in being a political thriller. In my view, I did not see it so much as an anti-American film (though it has that aspect) but as a highly complex narrative that plays out at three levels. The first, and most obvious, is the parallel of the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush. From the UK perspective, Blair would have gone down as one of the great PM's (if nothing else because of the constitutional changes he carried out) but for his unfortunate support of Bush particularly in the Iraq war. The controversy still rages as to why he did that. The second aspect has to do with the illegal and immoral acts carried out and the way in which the truth can emerge and individuals be brought to justice. But to me, the most compelling aspect is the way in which government, industry/finance and academia at their highest levels collude and conspire in ways that go against the public interest. It is no longer a simple matter of bribery or quid pro quo but a combination of acculturation and the overlap of individual/group agendas. And as the film shows brilliantly, there is a opaqueness and ambiguity that makes this process difficult to penetrate.
Another film that is as good if not better is "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," based on the novel by Stieff Larsson. It is an eyeopening window into the underside of the Swedish socialist paradise.
Ciao, Bob

Pete M said...

Thanks for your comments. They expand from mine considerably. I didn't mention Bush because he wasn't explicitly in the film, but, of course, Blair certainly did his bidding. As to the vexing question as to why he and the whole apparatus did and continues to do these things, I think that my post after this one on the church's defensive posture may hold at least some of the answer. They (and we) are all defending their (and our) positions. Nobody can come clean and take the consequences. It's the way of the world.