Ismaël Vuillard makes films. He is in the middle of one about Ivan, an atypical diplomat inspired by his brother. Along with Bloom, his master and father-in-law, Ismaël still mourns the death of Carlotta, twenty years earlier. Yet he has started his life over again with Sylvia. Sylvia is his light. Then Carlotta returns from the dead. Sylvia runs away. Ismaël rejects Carlotta. Driven mad by these ordeals, he abandons the shoot for his family home in Roubaix. There, he lives as a recluse, besieged by his ghosts.
Ismael’s Ghosts (French: Les Fantômes d’Ismaël) is a 2017 French drama film directed by Arnaud Desplechin, starring Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Louis Garrel. The film follows a filmmaker whose life is sent into a tailspin, just as he is about to start shooting a new film, by the return of his wife, who disappeared 20 years ago and whom he thought dead. Ismael’s Ghosts premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival as the opening film.
Cast and Characters
— Mathieu Amalric as Ismaël Vuillard
— Marion Cotillard as Carlotta Bloom
— Charlotte Gainsbourg as Sylvia
— Louis Garrel as Ivan Dedalus
— Alba Rohrwacher as Arielle / Faunia
— László Szabó as Henri Bloom
— Hippolyte Girardot as Zwy
— Jacques Nolot as Claverie
— Catherine Mouchet as The intensive care doctor
— Samir Guesmi as Doctor
It’s the portrait of Ivan, a diplomat who journeys through the world without understanding it. It’s the portrait of Ismael, a film director who journeys through his life without understanding it either. It’s the return of a woman from amongst the dead. It’s also a spy movie. Five films compressed into one, like Pollock’s female nudes. Ismael is frenzied. And the script grew frenzied alongside him. And yet up in his attic, Ismael tries to hold all the threads of the fiction together…
I described my project to a friend: “I think I’ve invented a pile of plates of fiction that I will break against the screen. When they’re all broken, the film will be finished.” Potlatch, fictional overabundance… But why did I need to shatter them, these fragments of stories? It’s because three women were born from the shards. A woman loved, the memory of a woman vanished, and an impish friend.
These fictions are spent for them. Throughout the twists and turns of the plot, the task was to speak clearly and straightforwardly. I wanted each scene to come off as raw, brutal. Blows the spectator can’t dodge. It has often been necessary for me to give my film references.
For “Ismael’s Ghosts”, I had to forge ahead alone, even if I live surrounded by the films I love. Certain great films eye me dispassionately: “8½”, “Providence”… I’ve seen them a hundred times, I revere them, and they are of no help to me. As Truffaut wrote to Deneuve: “It’s forbidden to think that we will make a masterpiece. We’ll try to make a film that feels alive.” I think these three women are alive. I think that Bloom, battling age, is also alive. If Ivan is melancholic, a sort of ‘Idiot’ straight from Dostoyevsky, Ismael, with his mistakes, is a man alive. And it’s Sylvia who teaches him how to live.
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Ismael’s Ghosts – Les Fantômes d’Ismaël (2018)
Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel, Alba Rohrwacher, László Szabó, Hippolyte Girardot, Jacques Nolot, Catherine Mouchet, Samir Guesmi, Mélodie Richard
Screenplay by: Arnaud Desplechin, Léa Mysius, Julie Peyr
Production Design by: Toma Baqueni
Cinematography by: Irina Lubtchansky
Film Editing by: Laurence Briaud
Set Decoration by: Delphine De Casanove
Music by: Grégoire Hetzel, Mike Kourtzer
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality including some graphic nudity, language, and brief strong violence.
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: March 23, 2018