Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

With films like The State I'm In and Something To Remind Me, German director Christian Petzold has established himself as a specialist in low-key dramas that challenge, or confound, thriller conventions.

While continuing this tradition, his latest film Gespenster (Ghosts) doesn't quite match up to the high standards of its predecessors, emerging as somewhat too enigmatic and slow burning for its own good, demanding that the viewer work at making sense of it all, but not providing adequate recompense for their efforts.

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The first narrative strand sees a man in his forties pick up his wife from a clinic. As their exchanges slip back and forth between French and German for no discernible reason, we eventually come to learn that their three-year-old child was snatched, precipitating the woman's mental breakdown.

The second sees Nina happen upon a couple of youths assaulting Toni, another teenage girl. Later, the pair go back to the hostel where Nina is staying - the latest in a long line of temporary homes - before Toni goes to meet a friend, only to return disappointed.

These strands intertwine midway as, exiting a store with some shoplifted garments, Nina feels a hand on her shoulder. It is not the store detective, but the distraught mother. Does Nina have a scar on her ankle? A heart-shaped mole between her shoulders? Could she be the one?

Despite Petzold's assured mise-en-scene and the undoubted ability of his actors, each delivering a thoroughly credible performance, you end up hardly caring one way or the other.

Petzold's Ghosts needs more substance.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2005
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Ghosts packshot
Mystery of a lost child and two teenage girls on the run.
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Director: Christian Petzold

Writer: Christian Petzold

Starring: Julia Hummer, Sabine Timoteo, Marianne Basler, Aurelien Recoing, Benno Furmann

Year: 2005

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: Germany/France

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