Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Ghost

By Robert Harris

The problem with Harris is, he's too unproductive. The guy writes brilliant novels, interesting and very easy to read, but since 1992 he has produced a mere seven books. When I say they are easy to read, I mean the flow and pacing are so well done that the books run as smooth as a roll of film in a comfortable cinema.

'The Ghost' is about a ghost writer's experiences as he goes to work for a former British prime minister who is about to be impeached for war crimes, and at first I thought it was going to be dull. In fact I didn't even buy this book, fearing the subject would be tedious. My friends Goeg and Frauke gave me the book as a birthday present, and a good job they did too, for it is an excellent read (I should have trusted Harris's story telling ability).

The book also seems to be about Harris's relationship to Tony Blair, whom the British prime minister in the book is an obvious replica of. Apparently Harris has some kind of relationship to Blair, or had, and this is a factor in the books creation. What ever. I don't really care about Blair and his legacy. I never liked him as a politician, and when he was first elected (I was living in Liverpool at the time) I predicted that he would be a problem in the long run because no matter how good he was, Labour always fuck things up.

Thankfully the book is apolitical in this regard, dealing more with the ghost writers experiences as he uncovers a dark secret at the heart of the former prime minister's past.

The Ghost Writer

By Roman Polanski.

I'm not big on Polanski. There are too many recurring themes in his films which annoy me, since they appear to present a jaded world vision reflecting Polanski's own life. Without a doubt the man has a talent for making films, but equally so he has a tendency to project himself (or his tedious wife) into his art in such a manner that it becomes impossible to watch one of his films without seeing the unsavoury perspective on the world he projects.

This film adaptation of Harris's book has an advantage in that Harris worked closely with Polanski to create it. Unfortunately, though there are only a few changes from the original, the subtlety of the novel has been lost, the claustrophobia is missing and the dialogue is rushed. The dialogue in particular was annoying. Having just read the book, it seemed to me that the pace of the novel, which was reflected in the barren winter setting of Martha's Vine Yard, had been sacrificed and the actors raced through their lines, almost talking over each other, in places where the book indicated long pregnant silences. I got the distinct impression that the actors were simply reading from a script, and had not bothered to read the book.

I didn't care for the less-than-subtle ending either!

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