A mashup between 8 ½, Persona and Rebecca, Ismael’s Ghosts is a film about voyeurism, identity, and loss. The eponymous Ismael Vuillard (Mathieu Amalric) is a director in the middle of creating his latest movie, scenes from which are dropped into the diegetic world of the film without warning or explanation, making the audience acutely aware from the first scene onwards that this narrator is not a reliable source of information. Everything that plays out from that point on does so within a strangely performative grasp on reality.
The new relationship that blossoms between Ismael and Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is interrupted by the sudden arrival of his wife Carlotta, in a strong central performance from Marion Cotillard, who has been missing and presumed dead for the last twenty years. She is the eponymous ghost, and her arrival wreaks all manner of emotional and psychological havoc on the lives and minds of Ismael and Sylvia. In a film that has already established a tenuous sense of linearity, this is the catalyst for almost total fragmentation. As Ismael increasingly doubts his own sanity, so the audience increasingly doubts the verity of everything in front of them, and what results is a dangerously playful and moving film that causes us to ask ourselves how we would respond, if so literally confronted by the ghosts of our past.