Cinta Forger and Walther Grotenhuis' Ghosts from the Past is an odyssey into the past of Dutch former criminal Viggo, who goes in search of the innocent, sensitive boy he once was and the causes of him becoming a "hard, nasty bastard".
These causes lie principally in Viggo's family background which, as we gradually discover, is extremely unconventional and troubled. "When I started making the film, I knew nothing about Viggo's past", director Grotenhuis says. "It was a completely blank page. I just started interviewing him and it spread from there."
The story unfolds through these interviews with Viggo and also with two of his sisters, along with footage of the three of them trying to come to terms with their shared demons, and a huge family archive of photographs, home movies and diaries. "The family told me they knew there was this huge archive," Grotenhuis says. "But they didn't know where it was. They hadn't seen it for decades. It turned out one sister had a lot of it, and the other sister had a lot more. I told them not to open it – it turned out to be this absolute treasure trove of material they hadn't seen for a long, long time."
We accompany Viggo and his sisters in their exploration of this family archive, as they gradually uncover and then relive dark secrets behind the images of seemingly happy children at play, holidays and family life. As the children get older, hints start to emerge that all may not be as it seems – Viggo transforms before our eyes from a carefree young boy playing with toys to an angry young man posing with an Uzi.
Towards the end of the film, at the conclusion of this 90-minute tour of his life we have been on, Viggo says to his psychotherapist, "I tried, but I haven't got very far." That innocent, sensitive boy he once was is still an elusive image in a black-and-white home movie.
Viggo's relationship with his sisters also remains problematic. "I don't think the film has actually helped their relationships with one another that much," Grotenhuis says. "They still fight. They still live on their separate islands. But they will all be at the premiere. Which is fantastic."