Ghosts on Film

Building on recent initiatives to bridge the gap between cinema and theatre, Richard Eyre’s multi-award-winning filleted Ibsen now reaches the big screen.

There’s no doubt these `live’ broadcasts – be they NT Live, or Royal/Metropolitan Opera and Ballet Live – are the way of the future, bringing `high’ art performances to people at affordable prices and allowing great performances not only to be shared with wider audiences but for more people to savour and delight in culture at one time thought beyond their pocket or even interest.

Digital Theatre with its educational arm, Digital Theatre Plus is the latest into the field founded by former theatre director Robert Delamere. With Merrily We Roll Along and Private Lives already in the can, Eyre’s Almeida production of Ghosts is also a first in its use of high definition Dolby Atmos sound, a fact underlined several times by opening speeches at the film premiere if, ironically, not matched by the defective mic system used! So much for modern technology!

Ghosts, though – Ibsen’s rebuke to mothers, fathers and the suppression of the `life force’ – I have to report, comes off very well. Less impressed than most at its original viewing (see 2013 Reviewsgate review), I felt too much had been excised in Eyre’s 90 filleted version. Few others agreed and it went on to win a bucketful of awards, for Eyre and for Lesley Manville’s Mrs Alving.

Up close and full frontally cinematic, this version of Ghosts carries all before it, so powerfully does it connect. Ibsen’s tendency to melodrama takes grip through the battles joined between Adam Kotz’s (replacing Will Keen) straitlaced Pastor Manders’s and Manville’s capable but desperate Helene Alving. And, of course, through the intense mother/son guilt-love played out between Helene and Jack Lowden’s tremendous Oswald, aching for life but syphilitically scarred by the `sins’ of his father.

Despite the very real gap between conventions – theatre’s loquacious, bigger `style’ takes time to adjust to in a different context – this Ghosts adds yet another layer of meaning to its theatrical version. Handsomely designed, majestic in delivery, for students, the chance to capture the detail of such classics will surely prove invaluable. Audiences at large can catch it across 275 cinemas in the UK and Ireland next week on Thursday (June 26). Well worth a fiver.