If you’ve seen any coverage or marketing for David Lowery’s A Ghost Story then it is likely you’ve come across the captivating image above. With an aesthetic reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s Stalker, this image captures what is equally haunting and beautiful about the film as a whole. Following his sudden death, a young man finds himself trapped and isolated somewhere between human existence and the after life. Cloaked in a bed sheet, he inhabits his home, watching over his mourning partner. What follows is a philosophical and existential voyage into loneliness, legacy and loss. This is the second outing for Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara who appeared together as equally intimate lovers in Lowery’s previous Sundance hit, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Their onscreen chemistry is subtle but strong in this, an exploration into the unfathomable expanse of time and space in a film which is less than ninety minutes but rushes nothing. Lengthy unedited sequences tests and rewards us in a film which demonstrates the cinematic power of silence. Be patient with A Ghost Story, it takes its time and wants you to embrace its steady release. There are many comparisons to be made between other films that explore the next plain. I was reminded of the dreamlike atmosphere of Wings of Desire but equally the unspoken sorrow of the films of Derek Cianfrance. A Ghost Story is certainly haunting but not because of the ghost in the corner of the room but by facing up to the expansive insignificance of the individual.
The long expansive shots include Mara identifying Affleck’s body, Mara consoling herself in her grief and the couple falling asleep together before the tragedy. These unedited, extensive scenes help to cement the intimacy of the couple. Meanwhile, we witness the couple’s disputes and daily frustrations in quick succession and rapid cuts; contrasting the long, loving sequences and ultimately giving their relationship substance and a bleak realism. The film’s cinematography is outstanding, every shot beautifully framed and rich in pastel colours and wonderful use of both artificial and natural light. Equally, the film’s rich and versatile score is full of emotion and intensity. Daniel Hart has used a range of musical styles and influences to tailor the film’s audio-landscape to the complex, spiritual layers of the film’s narrative and camera work. Disregarding one specific sequence, there is barely two hundred words spoken in A Ghost Story. The silence is frustrating, consuming and powerful. There is also a consistent, wonderful use of frames – be it the camera, the door or the window. Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo heightens everything with his expert use of colour, light and structure. In one moment, Affleck’s ghost spots another lonesome spirit through the window. After the realisation that he may be stranded here waiting for some time, the camera retracts, Affleck’s hidden spectre is then abandoned by us, the audience, as the camera pulls away and an intense sense of dread and isolation sets in for all.
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