The Science of Ghosts is just as much an exploration of the music documentary and it’s form, as it is about it’s subject, Irish singer/songwriter, Chemikal Underground’s Adrian Crowley. This makes it all the more interesting as it considers much of Susan Sontag’s argument in On Photography, once you put a camera in front of something, it changes. As does Adrian to firstly comprehend being in a documentary and then of course what aspects of his life to share with the audience that were watching the screen. I sense a real struggle with the elements that make for an interesting documentary and whether he feels he possesses those. An explorative feature.
Both the portrait of an artist, and an the singer’s ponderings, Niall McCann’s (Lost In France, GFF17) most recent documentary contemplates the divide between truth and fiction, culminating in an experimental documentary that investigates the artist’s psyche. We are first introduced to Adrian through an interview that is abruptly interrupted by the sound of a siren, and he begins to question his interpretation of life on screen. What follows is a non-linear, montage discussion of Crowley’s life, his struggles to pin point his creativity, which renders the piece more universal and wide-ranging, as many artists and filmmakers watching this work might likely relate.
Collaborative in form, Niall and Adrian co-wrote this documentary, which is told though various snapshots of this songwriter’s life. The explorative, slow-paced, sedate aspect of this film is interesting, as we watch thoughts unfold. We are introduced to family members at points, as we witness Adrian’s daughter and her friends posing with the realisation that the camera is very much on them. Adrian’s son is brought into the documentary with noises about being stung by a mosquito, rendering a warmth to the film, that allows the audience to giggle. Visually compelling, we are indulged by images of Crowley in Galway, composing music in a hut, on the edge of a loch as well as those of him in Coney Island, as he was timely touring there, as they began to film. There is much richness within this hour and seventeen minutes.
There are clear references within this documentary, Ludwig Wittgenstein is one, the Austrian-British philosopher who works in logic quite obviously affects the director’s line of thinking. Derrida is another philosopher considered in the documentary, which highlights the explorative aspect of the film.
And one thing that hits me is Adrian’s track, Halfway to Andalucia, which we see him perform early in the film, and then also performed live after the screening, which is a culmination of stories and reflections, and a fake death underlines this documentary. We witness all of this and some, and the loose song writing processes become apparent through the loose and experimental filmmaking processes, and for that, we get more from this documentary than your formulaic chronological timeline of a musician’s life.
For more on the Glasgow Film Festival 2019 click here.