Rating: (4 out of 5) Saturday, 10/17/2009, 7:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at Goethe Institut Inter Nationes
SOME FILMS HAVE have such originality as to defy genre. With its shroud of melancholy, gentle love story and mild supernatural mystery, Ghosted is just such a film. Although its ponderous tone may reflect a typical contemporary Northern European sensibility, director Monika Truet breaks free from familiar terrain with her exceptional talent for story-telling and atmosphere. And although like many indie filmmakers she also explores the intersection of diverse cultures, in this case Taiwanese and German, she does so to evoke magic and mood rather than as a means to educate us. Exactly the same can be said of the lesbian love story at the heart of this piece; the chemistry of this pairing is what she so skillfully explores, not the politics.
Truets exhibits a subtle voice, drawing us into this tale without fanfare, bringing us first to Sophie, a German artist visiting Taipei, whom we gradually learn is in quiet mourning for her lost lover, a young Taiwanese woman named Ai-ling. As another young woman, Mei-li, tries to interview Sophie and then investigate the circumstances of Ai-ling’s death, all three begin to relive the love affair that has left Sophie so lost and bereft. The memories are deftly and effectively woven into the real-time mystery just as the shots of Taipei and Hamburg are explored — with the kind of quiet restraint that allows the characters and the viewer to savor and contemplate their secrets and sorrows.
Playing Sophie with an understated charisma, the fascinatingly androgynous Inga Busch is, in a way, as much an enigma as the strangely persistent Mei-li. Deeply expressive, Busch speaks less with her voice than with her eyes and yet when she does open up — in her scenes with Ai-ling, for example — we see immediately the warm and dimensional woman Ai-ling has fallen for. It is a subtle, consistent and effective performance.
Huan-Ru Ke’s Ai-ling is equally convincing and just as compelling. She is an unfinished, perhaps unbegun woman, and Ke superbly embodies this soul brimming with wants and needs. Ting-Ting Hu as the increasingly unsettled but persistent Mei-li, completes the triangle and the mystery with memorable edge.
And yet even though this film ultimately delivers its secrets, it is Truets’s quietly rendered aftermath that lingers for its poignancy and beauty.
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