A Ghost Story – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, McColm Cephas Jr.
In an interview by David Masters of the BBC with Lowery, he said in relation to where the idea for the film came from:
“The film opens with the couple arguing about whether to leave their Texas ranch home. I’m a sentimental person and I like to stay in one place and put down roots. I get very attached to the homes I live in. And [my wife’s] the opposite, she likes to keep moving.
“We had an argument that felt like a scene from the movie – I even said so at the time. It was only a month or two after that the idea for this film came into being.”
In the movie which emerged, in a non-descript Texas ranch-style bungalow, the character played by Casey Affleck lives. He is a musician but without a name other than “C”. His wife, also without a name other than “M”, played by Rooney Mara, stands over him as he lies, following an accident, on a gurney in a morgue. He then raises his torso into the upright position and metamorphoses into a ghost suitably clad in a white sheet. This is the traditional garb that is associated with ghosts from early childhood to drunken adult Halloween parties. However Affleck’s attire is much more than a simple sheet as it folds and falls with elegance to the ground. The only part of it which is not refined are the two eye slots which are crude in comparison to the remainder. Lowery’s ghost is therefore an everyday ghost albeit encased in a very well-tailored white garment. The ghost returns to the bungalow as many ghosts like to remain in the house which they had occupied when alive. Thus following spiritually Lowery’s instinct “to put down roots.” Initially Mara has to deal in the bungalow with the loss of her husband and also the presence of the ghost but time inevitably passes. New inhabitants arrive in the bungalow but the ghost remains in situ. The remorseless passage of time continues as a motley collection of humans in turn occupy the haunted space and then leave.
The film is shown in an almost square aspect ratio with the edges of the frames softened. Masters in the same interview queried Lowery about this technique to which he replied:
“Adding those vignettes on the corners was a way for me to see the film as an object. It imposes a window on the film, you’re always looking through something to the image. It helped me understand the movie better and it also added the slightest hint of nostalgia. It has the look of a slide projector image on a wall.”
It can be deduced from that statement that Lowery is open to various interpretations as to what the film is about. One clue is the monologue given by a man (Will Oldham of Bonny Prince Billy fame) described in the dramatis personae as “Prognosticator”. It is by far the most substantial speech, in duration, in the entire piece. Further assistance maybe gleaned from the enigmatic score composed by David Hart which disconcertingly accompanies Lowery’s images.
Affleck, Mara and Lowery have previously worked together on “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013) and with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara playing such prominent roles, even if Affleck’s body is mostly hidden from view, this film is bound to be watched by many. As to what it is precisely about, it is likely that there will be as many opinions as the number of people who watch it.