Ghosts (2005 film)

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Gespenster (Ghosts)
Directed by Christian Petzold
Written by Christian Petzold
Harun Farocki
Release date
September 15, 2005 (2005-09-15)
Running time
86 minutes
Country Germany
Language German, French

Gespenster is a 2005 German film directed by Christian Petzold. Petzold also cowrote the screenplay with Harun Farocki. The film was presented at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival, where it was officially entered into competition.


The film portrays a day, a night and the following day in the life of a teenage orphan, Nina, who lives in a group home. Nina is shy, introverted and lives only in the past, which she tries to fabricate in her diary. She meets Toni, a young woman living on the street who is her exact opposite: she concerns herself only with surviving the present moment.

They meet Françoise, who has recently been released from a mental hospital in Berlin and now wanders the city aimlessly. Unable to give up the hope of finding her daughter, Marie, who was abducted many years ago, she is also arrested by the past. Françoise believes she recognizes Nina as her daughter. Her husband, Pierre, tries patiently to convince her to return with him to France.

When Nina is abandoned by Toni after a party she goes looking for the place where she had encountered Françoise. She hopes that she finally might have found a real mother. Although Françoise is there, at the film’s end Nina is left bitterly disappointed.

Form and content[edit]

The film stresses form before content. The events and people it depicts exist as an almost arbitrary means; they could be replaced by others without great effect. The focus of the film is guided by its underlying intent, that is, to show the rootless, ghostly nature of the characters. The film’s production style and the film's meaning – connecting fairy tale worlds and legends, dreams and reality – melt into one another to create a work of film art which is rich in symbols, whereby Petzold consciously avoids psychologizing his characters. In doing so he leaves the viewer with "ein bleibendes Nachbild", or a permanent afterimage (Daniel Kothenschulte, Frankfurter Rundschau, 15. September 2005).

The most significant meaning is conveyed through camera work. The film was shot using natural light and made use of the Steadicam, by which the viewer becomes, like in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, not a silent observer of the film, but rather a silent observer within it. For financial reasons however the director also had to work extensively with rails. The film remains at a distance from its subject. There is a sense of obligation to a reduction whereby the film’s formal aspects trump the emotional content. The camera follows the protagonists, watches their behavior over the shoulders, both as they speak with and when they lose one another.



  • Director: Christian Petzold
  • Screenplay: Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki
  • Production: Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber, ARTE
  • Music: Stefan Will, Marco Dreckkötter
  • Camera: Hans Fromm
  • Editing: Bettina Böhler


2005: Findling Award

2006: German Film Critics Association Award - Best Feature

External links[edit]