Read more about Christian Petzold's Ghosts trilogy over at Film Comment.
Unreleased in the U.S., the third film by one of the most exciting directors from Germany’s Berlin School interweaves two intersecting story lines to explore the spectral existences of three female outsiders—a pair of late adolescent girls and an unstable middle-aged woman—who struggle to reconnect with “normal” society and find a place to belong. The action unfolds in Berlin’s redeveloped Potsdamer Platz, symbol of the post-reunification German social and economic order, but nonetheless haunted by three “ghosts”: lonely Nina (Julia Hummer), who lives in a youth home, manipulative homeless delinquent Toni (Sabine Timoteo), and Francoise (Marianne Basler), who is searching for her long-ago kidnapped and still missing daughter. After a chance encounter in Tiergarten Park, Nina becomes infatuated with the worldly Toni and joins her world of petty crime and vagrancy. Always looking to get ahead, Toni drags Nina to a casting call for a television show called “Friends,” dreaming of climbing her way to the good life. Meanwhile, Francoise is collected from a stay in a mental hospital by her husband Pierre (Aurélien Basler), who has come to terms with their loss, and wanders the city, seeing her grown child in the faces of other young girls—until eventually she and Nina cross paths. Inspired partly by the chaos and euphoria unleashed after the Berlin Wall came down in 1990, partly by the Brothers Grimm tale The Shroud, about a dead child whose mother’s tears wet his shroud, preventing him from ascending into heaven, and partly by photos of missing girls in a French post office, Petzold’s film forms the middle section of his “Ghosts Trilogy” (initiated by The State I Am In in 2000 and concluded in 2007 with Yella). Here the ghosts are not just his three main characters—one lost in a traumatic past, one trapped in an empty present, and one grasping at an imagined but hollow future—but the collective and historical ghosts of Germany’s unconscious.