Polanski's eagerly awaited The Ghost Writer premiered a few hours ago at Berlin's Berlinale Palast. Fuelled by all the buzz surrounding Polanski's recent arrest in Switzerland, The Ghost Writer has received a lot of advance publicity, which according to some critics is wholly undeserved. The worst review to date came from Variety's Derek Elley, who wrote that 'the best thing that can be said about the film is that viewers don't need to read the novel' as it is a word-for-word adaptation from Robert Harris' book. However, it's not all doom and gloom for Polanki's film as several German critics have given it favourable reviews. S. Vahabzadeh, for instance, who writes for the influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung, gave it three stars out of three. And although Kirk Honeycutt, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, was slightly less enthusiastic, overall his review at least makes you want to see the film, whereas Elley just dismisses it entirely, including its box office prospects. This phenomenon has always puzzled me: What is the point of predicting a film's box office potential? Or worse: Of not even giving it a chance? What purpose does this serve? All it does, is discouraging potentially interested distributors from buying the rights for their respective territories and keeping movie goers away from the screen. It seems to me that while any film critic is of course entitled to their own opinion and needless to say, also has the right to express it, predicting a film's failure is counter-productive to the industry - and art form! - they are supposed to serve, embrace, and love. People, including Variety's own Peter Bart, looking for the answer to the question of 'Who Killed Hollywood?', as is the title of one of Bart's books, need look no further: It's the box-office obsession by studios, producers, and obviously certain critics, but while the fear of the former regarding a film's reception is understandable, why a critic should want to kill a film before it's even opened is beyond me.
Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams attending the world premiere of Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer on Friday, 12 February 2010 at Berlin's Berlinale Palast.