All I needed to hear about this movie was that it explored the aftermath of grief and loss and, of course, I was interested. (To anyone unfamiliar with my history, the loss of my brother when I was 14 left me with an apparently life-long interest in these topics.)
So, last Thursday, on a pre-school day when we should have been working, Paul and I caught the 1 p.m. show at The Quad. Ghosted is the story of Sophie Schmitt, a Hamburg-based video artist, and her lover, Aing-Li, a young woman from Taiwan. They meet when Aing-Li travels to Germany to visit an uncle, work in his restaurant, and uncover a secret about her birth.
We learn all of this in flashback. The movie actually begins the tale after Aing-Li’s death. We don’t know how it happened for quite awhile. Or why. All we know is that Sophie, who we first meet as she opens a video installation entitled “Remembrance” in Taiwan, featuring Aing-Li, is sad, confused and lonely.
Enter Mei-Li, a Taiwanese journalist who first appears at the opening, trying, earnestly, to cajole Sophie into an interview about her relationship with Aing-Li. Both women are drawn to one another, so much so that Sophie drops her guard and agrees to hang out with Mei-Li for the day, though she knows Mei-Li plans to write about it.
The day doesn’t end well. And so unfolds a push-pull storyline in which Mei-Li keeps popping back up in unexpected places, trying to investigate the story of Aing-Li’s death. For a while, it feels very much like a detective story—with the potential for an unexpected truth looming around the corner. Ultimately, it's about searching from both sides--the living and the dead.
And I’d love to say more about that, but I’d spoil the tension for you if I did.
I really liked this movie. There’s not a whole lot of depth or “ah-ha” to it. There aren’t any huge revelations about the nature of grief and loss. When the credits were rolling, I leaned over to Paul and said, “What I like most about these movies is the sense that they’re visual travelogues.”
It’s true. We see Taiwan. We see Hamburg. We see it from an urban perspective. And we see it from the perspective of strangers visiting those countries. It’s also a travelogue on death and lost loved ones from a Taiwanese perspective.
As I said, it’s not a huge movie by any means, not in financing or in its point. But I did really enjoy it—and I was only a tiny bit wistful about not having spent the time working (huge for me). I’m grateful to co-writers Astrid Stroher and Monica Treut (who also directed) for this small window on the way another culture sees loss.
I had the normal upbringing with regard to movies, which is to say I went occasionally but nobody, including me, made too big a deal out of them. That changed in my mid-twenties, when I lived, for a brief and unhappy year, in Chicago. I knew few people, didn’t have a lot of work, was lonely, and needed to entertain myself. I discovered that I loved going to movies alone. That they left me in a contemplative, introspective state of mind that I really enjoyed.
When I moved to New York and began freelancing, I found that going to movies helped me write. I’d review my notes on a story, go to a movie, come back, sit down and the story—which had nothing at all to do with the movie—would just pour out. Maybe I was letting my subconscious work while the rest of my brain enjoyed itself. Maybe it was that contemplative state of mind I was talking about. Who knows? The only thing I really knew for sure was that it worked.
When I was writing my first book, I often saw a movie every morning as a prelude to the afternoon’s work. That meant I saw A LOT of movies, some great, some awful. You can’t be too picky when you’re seeing movies at that pace. My favorite movie experience during that time was when I went to see “Lord of the Rings.”
I had not read the books. It was long. I hadn’t read any reviews—I almost never read reviews (too many spoilers, and the critics’ views have a way of worming their way into your brain). I wasn’t totally thrilled about it, but I had few other choices. It was lunchtime, and on the way I stopped, on impulse, at Murray’s and got a sesame bagel with whitefish salad. And I picked up my customary enormous diet coke on the way in.
Well. The movie was beautiful—it was shot in New Zealand—and enormously entertaining. It had Ian Mackellan in it (a big plus), and the bagel with whitefish salad and (it almost goes without saying) the diet coke were sublime. And it was a LONG movie. So I really got to relish the experience. It was, in short…perfection. And that, my friends, is how this blog--which is, in essence, a movie lover's diary--got its name.