Ghosts is the feature debut of director Azra Deniz Okyay and the first Turkish film to debut at the Venice Film Festival since 2018, telling the story of a single day in Istanbul from the perspectives of four very different characters.
As well as the individual stories of these characters, Ghosts also uses the backdrop of Istanbul as a means of exploring a number of important socio-political themes. It’s a very multi-faceted and complex story, and while the film has a lot of narrative balls to juggle it does so masterfully, giving each arc and topic the space they need to breathe while ensuring the story remains dynamic.
It’s amazing how much Okyay is able to fit into just under 90 minutes of film, compressing and layering complicated ideas and character arcs over and into each other while still keeping things coherent and compelling.
What makes Ghosts work is its willingness to lean into the chaos of its premise to create something almost paradoxically clear and ordered – even as the camera flits back and forth between disparate narrative threads and cinematic styles, the composition embraces the contrast and seamlessly weaves these snapshots of Istanbul together, creating a comprehensive and gloriously messy image of an city on the cusp of significant sociopolitical change.
In this way, Ghosts is able to make Istanbul itself a character as nuanced and complicated as its ensemble cast, torn between the worlds of young and old, of debilitating poverty and gentrification in the name of “New Turkey”, of social reform and the comfort of the status quo. These images are all distinct, yet are all able to coexist and overlap thanks to the deceptively tight structuring of the film.
Ghosts is a very ambitious film that set itself a lot of complex narrative goals, and it succeeds by tackling that complexity head-on, delivering a smart and vibrant story that challenges its audience as much as it entertains.
Ghosts does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.