20 April 2010

Divided by a Common Language in The Ghost Writer

As someone who’s ridden the Lake Champlain ferry annually for the past few years, I found the opening sequence of The Ghost Writer to be very evocative: the crew of a big ferry tries to unload cars, but one SUV won’t move. Gradually the car bay empties out around that empty vehicle, leaving it to be towed away. And soon we hear that its driver jumped off the ferry during its voyage.

The movie is set off the coast of Massachusetts, but because its director, Roman Polanski, was a fugitive from justice in the US, it was shot in Europe. Every so often, that fact leaked through. Not because of the landscape, but because of quotidian details.

When the title character drives onto that ferry later, the ticket seller asks him, “Single or return?” instead of “One-way or round trip?”

And when he spends the night in a sleepy, off-season hotel, his bed is equipped with a duvet instead of blankets and sheet tucked severely under the foot of the mattress. That rarely happens in the US, alas.

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