Ghost Ship: A supposedly fun thing
by Alfonso Rivera
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016: The only Spanish feature competing in the alternative parallel section of the Basque event is a game of mirrors with vessels that harbour ghostly but bewitching beings
The eerie title of this film lasting 69 fascinating minutes is not at all misleading: the intangible, the mysterious and the otherworldly pervade its various, extremely peculiar chapters. Ghost Ship [+see also:
film profile] seems like a film from another world. As he took the plunge, diving down beyond the limits of reality, director Koldo Almandoz allowed himself to be possessed by the spirits of three geniuses: Bram Stoker, David Foster Wallace and F W Murnau, two authors and a filmmaker who were also fascinated by journeys, ships that whisk us away to destinations we've never even dreamed of, and the depraved side of our race that so pompously defines itself as human.
Almandoz, born in San Sebastián in 1973, has helmed documentaries, short films and audiovisual works, in addition to contributing to various media and heading the magazine The Balde, a publication written in Basque and English that tackles daring subjects in the fields of culture, art and current trends. Ghost Ship is now docking in his hometown, in the Zabaltegi-Tabakalera section of the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival, after it was presented at the BAFICI in Buenos Aires and the latest International Film Festival Rotterdam. With it, Almandoz invites us to board the titular boat, an experimental shipwreck that harbours irony, nostalgia, a love of film and wandering souls. To beckon us in, he recreates dreamlike situations, draws on immortal images of film and uses the tools of the documentary genre exactly as he pleases.
As a matter of fact, the film is opened by shots that capture the ridiculous, crumbling side of our world, inviting us to experience all the promise of the tacky 1970s/1980s series The Love Boat, but in a much more consumerist variant: cruise liners overrun with dancers, public address systems and sunscreen. We then get on board an audiovisual descendant of that devastatingly ironic book by David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, in which the late US author dissects today's leisure culture through his experience on a – supposedly – luxurious and glamorous cruise ship in the Caribbean.
Almandoz does not stop there, though: he jumps through time and delves into image archives to retell the strange love story between Oscar Wilde and his quasi-girlfriend, who later became the wife of the sinister Bram Stoker, widely known as the father of Dracula. As he manipulates images of that black-and-white nightmare better known as Nosferatu, the Basque director invites us aboard another boat, a living organism populated by rats and a vampire who is perhaps not a million miles away from his contemporaries.
And so, through dreams and reality, past and present, and a surprising piece of film history revolving around plagiarism, restoration and the desecration of graves, we are led – ever aboard this Ghost Ship – across captivating seas that transport us to states of mind verging on semi-consciousness, where spectres roam freely, rubbing shoulders with the viewer. The film is a Txintxua Films production, and its international sales are also managed by the Basque firm.
(Translated from Spanish)