Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des Villes Disparues): Denis Côté’s brilliant exploration of the otherworldly aftermath of a small town’s catastrophe
Adele (Larissa Corriveau), a secondary, though highly consequential character in director Denis Côté’s Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des Villes Disparues) sits quietly as the difference between rational and irrational fears is explained to her. Adele has been unkindly, but not quite maliciously, described as being “a few light bulbs short of a chandelier,” and the distinction is important to her since she wonders if seeing the dead qualifies as a rational fear. In walking the middle ground between an observational adult drama and a genre-faithful horror film, Côté’s eleventh feature as director could fail to deliver much of either, but is, in fact, an unsettling and rewarding contender in the competition category at this year’s Berlinale.
The catalyst for the disconcerting events to befall the Quebec village of Sainte-Irénée-les-Neiges is the car accident which killed 21-year-old Simon. It might have been an accident, or it might have been a deliberate attempt to escape the frustration of his existence – specifically being confined to an achingly small village. His family grieves, the community is shaken and the village’s parochial mayor and alcohol enthusiast (Diane Lavallée) makes a rhetoric-heavy speech about the unity of community. The ghost town of the title alludes to the supernatural presences, but also the slow process that already has Sainte-Irénée-les-Neiges in its grasp, slowly turning the small village into a literal ghost town.
With a primarily handheld camera shooting on dirty, grainy 16mm film, the picture has an emotional rawness which delves into disquietude frequently and effectively. Côté is unafraid to indulge in some traditional horror tropes, but he does so with discretion and surety. It’s not so much a terrifying film as one with an unshakable sense of foreboding. The feature is remarkable for its subjectivity, and indeed works on many different levels, from the fear of the other, to a study in wintry grief, to a beautifully befuddling arthouse horror. Ghost Town Anthology is a cryptic treat that deserves an audience.
Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des Villes Disparues) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch three clips from Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des Villes Disparues) here: