Ghosts (film)

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Original title Ghosts
Country of production Germany
original language German , French
Publishing year 2005
length 85 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Christian Petzold
script Christian Petzold,
Harun Farocki
production Florian Koerner von Gustorf ,
Michael Weber , ARTE
music Stefan Will ,
Marco Dreckkötter
camera Hans Fromm
cut Bettina Boehler

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Ghosts is a German-French fictional film by Christian Petzold from 2005. It portrays a shy outsider who experiences two existential encounters in one day that bring with them promise and disappointment. Julia Hummer , Sabine Timoteo and Marianne Basler play the main roles . The film premiered on February 15, 2005 in the competition of the Berlin International Film Festival , the German cinema release on September 15, 2005. Together with Die Innere Sicherheit and Yella , the film forms Petzold's so-called “Ghost Trilogy”.

Plot and characters

The film tells episodically 24 hours from the life of the 16-year-old Berlin orphan girl Nina (Julia Hummer), which is characterized by two encounters through which wishes are fulfilled in both cases, in the first by Nina herself.

As they gradually get closer to the somewhat older Toni (Sabine Timoteo), it becomes clear that the two basically only have one thing in common: They are outsiders. In their temperament they could hardly be more different: Nina, a child at home, is shy, withdrawn and lives completely in her dreams, which she tries to process in diaries, whereas the vagabond Toni is impulsive, dominant and possessive - the latter in the literal sense of the word , because she is a notorious thief and naturally makes Nina, who is often completely taken by surprise, an accomplice.

This also happens when Nina is suddenly addressed by a complete stranger (Marianne Basler) as "Marie": The woman, a French woman, once lost her then 3-year-old daughter Marie to a kidnapping in Berlin. Since then she has been returning compulsively to the crime scene and now believes (once again) that she recognizes the young person in whom she is looking. She asks Nina to see if she could be her missing daughter based on two physical features, a scar on her left ankle and a small heart-shaped mole on her back. The inspection of the first feature is positive, that of the second is interrupted by Toni stealing the woman's wallet, fleeing with Nina and throwing the loot into a wastebasket after the money was removed.

Then Toni guides Nina to a casting where two girls should tell how they became friends. As agreed, Toni presents with a fictitious story, but doesn't seem as certain as in the rehearsals before. Nina, on the other hand, who has been reluctant for a long time, surprises with a story that is presented hesitantly but seems authentic, in which dream, dream and reality mix. The two accept the invitation to an evening party, which is connected with praise, and dance intimately together there. The morning after, however, Nina is alone; Toni apparently spends the night with the director, who directed the casting and invited both of them. Nina goes back to the place where she met the Frenchwoman the day before, where she is actually waiting and inviting her to breakfast. Her husband arrives there and urges his wife to leave. He tells Nina that her daughter Marie is dead. Nina now goes back to where Toni had thrown away the wallet, looks at the photos of Marie in it, throws them resolutely back in the wastebasket and walks on.


The plot is of minor importance in ghosts . It is more about creating a portrait - or a “sketch” -, making moods tangible, an “atmosphere of transition: hopes, fallacies, continued attempts.” Petzold himself stated that after making the previous films he “ no longer felt like developing a plot, “moving a story forward”. He also did not want to establish a consensus with the actors (“You are the daughter now or you are not”), but rather a kind of “limbo”. Hence his preference for an open ending, not just in ghosts .

In another interview he admitted that he likes it “when the characters are outside of normality from the start” and also when they strive to “become normal, part of some normality or the idea of ​​normality.” In In his film Ghosts, Petzold continues, "the effect is that the other characters these girls touch suddenly no longer look as if they all lead a great normal life - and only these two girls have no way of to participate in this life. ”Where the other people are, normality does not begin, but the“ next ghost zone ”.

An initial idea for the film, according to Petzold, goes back to reading Rainald Goetz ' Rave and a novel by Cesare Pavese , which deals with how two girls from the proletarian milieu "become infected" with the artist world and later, left alone, "perish". The exposé did it but nobody cares, except for Julia Hummer. With her he also developed another story, that of a French woman who is looking for her lost child in Berlin. Harun Farocki then had the idea of ​​bringing both together.

Petzold describes two experiences as “roots” for his film. One of them was a series of photos of long-missing girls, which he came across in a French post office. In addition to the last shot of the missing person, the series showed a series of computer images that were supposed to depict what they might later look like, images that Petzold found “strangely ghostly”, “without social aging”, “actually dead”, “ Ghost portraits ”. Nina also finds such a series in the French woman's wallet.

The second “root” turned out to be one of Grimm's fairy tales that Petzold read to his daughter: the little shirt . It is about the fact that a mother cannot get over the loss of her little daughter and that the dead child who appears to her several times has to ask her to finally let go because otherwise it cannot go to heaven.

In addition to echoes of other specific fairy tales (including Hansel and Gretel , Cinderella , Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood ) or certain fairy tale motifs, there are also dreams that deepen the understanding of the characters. At the center of the casting is Nina's story, which she introduces with the fact that she already knew Toni from a (recurring) dream before she actually met her. This dream, which culminates in the fact that she wants to stand by a girl threatened by rapists, is indeed similar to her real first encounter with Toni, at least outwardly. However, she seems to want to hide the real essence of the incident (the men are chasing Toni stolen prey). Her second story, her fictional version of the encounter between the two, is exaggerated: when she met new foster parents and went to a new school, she wished that the “queen” of the class would be admired by Toni for everything she does - may be friends with her, Nina. Toni, who usually looks so tough, cries while listening to what Nina is projecting into her.


The camera work is of the utmost importance. The shooting took place in natural light and there was also the use of the steadicam , which, similar to Gus Van Sant's Elephant , makes the viewer not the silent observer of the film, but the silent observer in the film. For financial reasons, however, the director had to work largely with rails. The film remains at a distance from what it wants to show. He feels obliged to a reduction in which the formal aspect is superimposed on the emotional content. The camera runs after the protagonists, looks over their shoulders as they act, stands by them when they talk to each other - and when they lose each other again.


The film was shot from June 8, 2004 to July 21, 2004 in Berlin and Paris .


“In these caresses, in further caresses, 'Ghosts' is a great film. On the whole, it is not. As wonderful as the soundtrack is, as much as it invites you to close your eyes and just listen to this film, as clear as the images are, as wonderfully as Christian Petzold (as always dramaturgically advised by Harun Farocki) balances his motifs against each other, so great the actresses are and as little as one can overlook the cinematic intelligence of this director: it doesn't work on the whole. 'Ghosts' has what it takes to be a masterpiece, but it isn't. "

- Ekkehard Knörer, film headquarters

“A study of grief, loneliness and the futile search for closeness, in which the narrative threads mutually impair each other in terms of their atmospheric density. The characters and their conflicts remain all too lifeless due to the cool, distant narrative gesture. "

“With the melancholy that is almost typical for him, director Christian Petzold [...] once again describes a problem-ridden outsider story. But without the looseness and naturalness of French role models, the whole thing often seems very stiff and cramped. "

“This Berlin is also a ghost town. Petzold moves very quietly, as if on tiptoe, in order to observe his somnambulistic figures, but not to wake them up. "

- Peter Zander : The world

“The viewer is inexorably drawn into a story of longing and loss. The clear clarity of the Berlin summer, the rustling of the leaves and the wind, the hum of the traffic, all of this becomes a second-order experience, as if it were a dream, a memory or a fairy tale, the characters of which are perhaps only due to the longing of the other exist and be held in the world. What is real in this film, photographed with almost hypnotic calm, is perhaps only the bottomless, all-pervasive longing of a woman for her child. "

- Katja Nicodemus : The time


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Approval certificate for ghosts . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , August 2005 (PDF; test number: 103 448 K).
  2. Braunschweiger Zeitung; in: Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release; Press review (last accessed on April 18, 2014)
  3. New Germany; in: Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release; Press review (last accessed on April 18, 2014)
  4. “'The plots have all run.' Interview with Christian Petzold about ghosts " , from August 31, 2005 (last accessed on April 18, 2014)
  5. Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release; Interview with Christian Petzold (last accessed on April 18, 2014)
  6. Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release; Interview with Christian Petzold (last accessed on April 18, 2014)
  7. Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release; Director's Note (last accessed April 18, 2014)
  8. ^ "Ghosts" at Filmzentrale
  9. Ghosts. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  10. Ghosts. In: prisma-Verlag , accessed on September 4, 2017 .
  11. Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release
  12. Ghosts (PDF; 1.1 MB) press release