On the surface, A Ghost Story could easily be misinterpreted and dismissed as a simple, reflective piece of cinema that lets the audience decide what they want from it and, while it does offer that, it also reminds me of nuanced, contemporary art piece that could be beamed onto the walls of TATE Modern and drift you from place to place, with silence and minimal score as Rooney Mara’s ‘M’ comes to terms with the loss of his husband, ‘C’, played by Casey Affleck. We assume.
Due to its unique framing and stylistics, I’d suspect David Lowery’s movie isn’t for everyone as his direction offers up long brooding shots, alongside specific moments, that can last an entire scene, one that you’re not allowed to escape from. They linger somewhere between thought, memory and grieving, much like Affleck’s dead soul, watching on under a sheet with tear-shaped eyeholes cut out, caught somewhere between life and death, living out the seemingly untouchable in some form of silent purgatory.
But A Ghost Story is one to ponder upon and that’s what makes it distinctive. From the moment of sharing a song, to a family changing through time, it represents and studies the inevitability of time and its never-ending circle, whoever you are. The ‘It’s just Science…’ speech by the ‘Prognosticator’, played by musician Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy if you know your American singer-songwriters), brings that question of time to life. His description of space, time and the death of everything might well feel empty and hopeless, but if you consider the Scientific facts of the universe, then everything he says is right. While it might sound complex, it’s perfect and purposeful.
The film also reminded me of momentary snippets of other films, maybe an avant-garde version of The Sixth Sense with its silent moments, or even the underrated The Frighteners that deals with death in differing ways. But given that this film is set in one spot, truly, it really echoed the sentiment of a wonderful short called The Room, a short film from 2001 that’s directed by Erik Lieshout and Rutger Hauer, with the latter also starring – Watch that one here to understand the senses I felt.
But, before we conclude and because it’s were we are, A Ghost Story is directed by Lowrey with a slow, shuffling Casey-Affleck-under-a-sheet pace, flashing seamlessly between time and with it this is an utterly original, profound film. He tells a human story that acknowledges the emptiness of death by showing Affleck as a passer-by in the background, like we’ll be in spirit or as part of the Earth again I suppose. The one message that resonated though is that life is important, don’t let it hinder, float and vanish into nothing. A Ghost Story is an experience for the senses and somehow it’s also telling you to embrace now.