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To all of the film and theological students out there, this is a film that should be analyzed for decades to come. The suggestion is for you to get along to A Ghost Story while it is briefly in theaters. Take in this haunting drama, take notes for your record and then discuss what it all means. Is it a statement on life, death or a bizarre combination of both?
The minimalist style of director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) proves that contemplative stories should not be reliant on dialogue or special effects to deliver a message. C (Casey Affleck) is a struggling musician who is living with his wife, M (Rooney Mara), in a semi-rural American home. A nuance of this young lady is that she leaves behind messages in cracks and crevices of the homes where she lives. Not soon after she places one of her secret notes in the wall of their home, the couple is awakened by a loud noise in the house. Even though they were scared, the couple was unable to find out the source of the disturbance. Shortly after this incident, C dies in a car accident. After the declaration of his death, he awakens as a ghost and remains under the sheet from the hospital bed. He finds his way back to his home and observes what life is like for his cherished bride. Unaware that his spirit is following her through her new life without him, M eventually moves away and leaves her husband’s ghost behind. The ghost is left to experience the history that follows within the house whilst attempts to retrieve the message hidden in the walls from his love.
Celebrated at a multitude of film festivals, A24 chose to pick up the distribution of this pensive and austere look into life after death. For fans of Casey Affleck or Rooney Mara, this journey is not reliant on their personalities to drive the film ahead. Neither have much dialogue and do not share the screen throughout the majority of the film. This is truly a psychological and spiritual journey that will test the resolve of the audience and should lead to complex discussions of death.
The artistry of Lowery’s existential journey can be revered and the performance of Mara is an exceptional example of minimalism that conveys her depth in pure physicality. The tension that is developed through the camera angles and the emotion portrayed on screen open the door to a complexity within the simplicity of the script. The challenge for audiences will be to grasp the heart of the message. Even though A Ghost Story is a visual marvel, the statement it makes of what follows death is hopeless and unappealing. The experience becomes one of wonder with a touch of bewilderment added to the mix and question to the point of the film and of life.
A Ghost Story is the quintessential art film. It is hard to say that this film will entertain audiences as much as it will move them. In an era of overly produced sequels, this is at the opposite end of the consideration. Every moment seems to contain a philosophical point and contains haunting visual effects, but will not appeal to the vast majority of modern audiences. The historical journey throughout time will exasperate many and may lull the audience into a contemplative stupor. If the viewer is able to make it through to the end, they must be satisfied with more questions than answers to all that Lowery is attempting to communicate.