A ghost or spirit defines as the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character. In A Ghost Story, the focus is not on the haunting and frightening characteristics of your classic ghost but instead, on the humanistic emotions and eccentricities found in the human character. An experimental piece from director David Lowery starring Casey Affleck as ‘C’ and Rooney Mara as ‘M’ has a simple plot that allows for ominous creativity to ensue, following the story of a ghost and his place in the world and the universe.
By an American dirt road sits number 515 a simple weatherboard house in which C and M live together, as husband and wife. In the opening scenes, Lowery presents the strong platonic and romantic relationship that C and M share with frames that linger and short whispered conversations. In the middle of the night, C and M were awoken by an unharmonious knock on the keys of their piano. Upon their midnight journey looking into rooms and hallways, with quiet footsteps and tired eyes, they do not find themselves confronted with an intruder or ghost.
As the first part of the film continues, the tense differences of the couple arise. The lack of dialogue and the sense of curt emotional communication in the film conveys the deepening hole in their relationship. On one morning, where the dew is still fresh and the sun is filtered by a bitter fog, the camera focuses on C who has just been in a car crash and was killed upon leaving his driveway. In the morgue, M is confronted with the body of her newly late husband, she lifts the sheet and bids an emotional farewell. As M leaves the room, C arises under the white clinical bed sheet and walks through the sombre hallways found within the hospital. C has now resurrected as a ghost, that quietly strolls through time in a classic halloween style ghost costume.
In the next chapter of the film, C watches M as she mourns, in which a memorable pie-eating scene occurs. A long reflective sequence of M sitting on her kitchen floor and forcing forkfuls of what appears to be a pumpkin pie into her mouth. It was a very interesting scene as it portrayed a raw and unedited episode in M’s mourning process. As M, eventually moves out of the house, she leaves a small note within a hole in the wall. This note becomes a constant motif in the film, as C tries to pry the note out of the hole with his cloth covered fingers.
Troubled by the fact that M has moved out of the house, C haunts a Spanish speaking family, who’s dialogue is not subtitled. Therefore, the predominantly English speaking audience are forced to understand the relationships and emotions of the family through their actions and reactions. One night, C is blinded with anger and holds a crockery-throwing tantrum, this exasperated episode of fury scares the family and they move out of number 515.
The film carries on with a series of events that explain Lowery’s perspective on the enormity of time. C lives through the bulldozing of his house, the rise of the future and other mystical occurrences on the timeline of the universe and the world. All presented on this one piece of land in Austin, Texas.
A Ghost Story is a portrayal of the immensity of time. The emotions and dimensions of character within the personality of C can be read clearly, even though his costume lacked detail and identity. The 4:3 square ratio of the film was used to show the claustrophobia and entrapment of eternity that C was subject to it also gives the feel of a home movie from the 1970s. The cinematography is beguiling and irresistible, the enduring scenes allowed for the audience to reflect on the mind- bending concepts discussed in the film.
This is an original, poetic and patient piece on the eternal nature of time and the story was delivered beautifully by Affleck and Mara. A sombre yet sincere story about love, time, mourning and of course, ghosts.
By Amy Leydman