Niall McCann/ Ireland/ 2018/ 77 mins
Part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2019
Adrian Crowley is an Irish singer/songwriter who has a distinctive voice that is immersed in melancholy but also hopefulness. He has released eight solo albums and Crowley is the subject of the experimental and slightly oblique documentary The Science of Ghosts. The film is directed by Niall McCann who was last at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2017 with the music documentary Lost in France. This film looked at the Glasgow based record label Chemikal Underground and Adrian Crowley’s association with the label led to the pair meeting and collaborating with The Science of Ghosts.
The film plays with time and space. It is not a straight forward documentary that follows a strict narrative. Other than giving a portrait of Adrian Crowley we are presented with vignettes and scenes that sliced are together to provide a fractured account of the musician’s life. Throughout the film memories and dreams are recounted and weaved together with images of Adrian in his home, in a hotel in New York and relaxing in the seclusion of the countryside.
Many of the scenes are clearly staged and add a surreal and comedic edge to The Science of Ghosts. The musician goes in search of the house that philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein lived in and meets an “expert” on Wittgenstein who clearly has no insight. The meandering and non-linear fashion of the film at times feels frustrating. Stories of elephants being executed at Coney Island and the search of Wittgenstein’s house are distracting. As Crowley makes music with strong narratives and a distinguishing voice, The Science of Ghosts could be a more enjoyable experience with the inclusion of more music and less random anecdotes.
After the screening there is a short Q and A with the director Niall McCann and also Adrian Crowley. Here we get an insight into the collaboration and get the impression the creative process was fun and rewarding, where experimentation and philosophy were important. The director stressed that the idea of, “When you film someone, you make a ghost of them,” influenced his approach and this underlines the dreamlike quality that The Science of Ghosts has. The event concludes with Adrian Crowley playing a short set where he performs ‘Catherine in The Dunes’, ‘Halfway to Andalusia,’ and a new song. Hearing Adrian play his music in an intimate and comfortable space is an absolute privilege and compliments the interesting and intriguing film.