Film Reviews

A GHOST STORY

By • Aug 1st, 2017 •

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A stunning philosophical film without compromise. Lowery’s A GHOST STORY is so original, daring and slow that it returns the medium of film into the hands of the director.

David Lowery’s highly personal, troubling A GHOST STORY stays with you – rummaging around in your head. There is something hauntingly beautiful in its premise. And then there is the feeling that Lowery has tapped into something very compelling – a truly unique treatise on what happens when we die.

A GHOST STORY is so much the writer-director’s absolute vision that the actors are merely set pieces. The long silences and still camera settings intentionally give us little information to know much about C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara). All we know is C writes songs. They are married, in love and live in a largely bare house in rural Texas. They are hardly a modern couple. Without friends, families, extraneous objects of entertainment – save for an old piano that came with the house – C & M spend their days wordlessly entwined in each other. A brief, melancholy interlude interrupts their self-imposed solitude. M wants to move but C feels tied to the land.

Without the distraction of a heavily electronic life, a glimpse of what is “behind the veil” of consensus reality makes itself known. A loud, banging noise from the piano in the middle of the night announces that something unexpected is in the house.

C’s soul is signaling its body’s impeding death. C dies suddenly and M, not being very talkative to begin with, retreats into a near somnambulistic state.

After M identifies C’s body, the technician covers the white sheet once again over his face. When M leaves, C sits up, completely encased in the white sheet and starts walking through the hospital and across fields to home.

In Hinduism is the belief that the soul, in its disembodied form, hovers about its original and familiar places for ten days. It is in the form of a ghost during these ten days.
According to midrashic tradition, the soul lingers over the body for three or seven days after death. The human soul is somewhat lost and confused between death and before burial, and it stays in the general vicinity of the body until the body is interred.

Shemira is the Jewish religious ritual of watching over the body of a deceased person from the time of death until burial.

The door to another degree reality is open and C’s “ghost” watches M as she grieves but he cannot make contact with her. Time passes and M decides to sell the house to a young Hispanic mother with two small children. M leaves a small note in a crack she makes in a wall. M’s ghost is trapped in the house and he starts breaking things and making his poltergeist activity apparent. Wisely, the woman and her children immediately flee.

The next part of the film is unsettling as we watch the house and the land go through changes over the years and decades.

With just the form of M being draped in a white sheet with holes for the eyes cut out, the mood, the music and the atmosphere created by Lowery incredibly draws us to feel sympathy for the ghost. Because it is true that when we die, the world goes on.

I follow the Chinese tradition of honoring my beloved deceased father. Chinese usually bring meat, snacks, dessert, drinks and fruit to the grave on the anniversary of the deceased’s death or other important holidays. In China I brought several paper items for my father. You can find virtually anything in paper to burn for your loved ones – prostitutes (it might get lonely in the afterlife), Viagra, cars, mansions, servants, fancy clothes, iPhones and iPads, and especially, money. People burn paper money and anything they think the deceased person could use in the other world. Currently, the most popular item to burn is a plastic iPhone4S for the deceased.

Archaeological evidence suggests that imitation money made from paper dates as far back as 1000 BCE.

M was unable to connect with the ghost of C.

Scientific American, in “Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased” (December 2, 2008) briefly states that “Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement…”.

A GHOST STORY, would consider the word “hallucination” to be totally inaccurate.

The film is a stunning example of what archaic people have known for thousands of years, remember your dead loved ones, they could be still hanging around.

Lowery’s A GHOST STORY is so original, daring and slow that it returns the medium of film into the hands of the director.

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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