There are very few times where I see a film and have absolutely nothing to say.
After watching Lenny Abrahamsson’s Room, a couple years ago, I was sitting with a friend in the cinema after the credits had stopped and neither of us knew what to do or say. Certain films can grip you emotionally and mentally in the best possible way and I believe that A Ghost Story, directed by David Lowery, is one of the most engaging films I have seen in years.
The story of a man who, after death, remains in his home under a large white sheet with black holes for eyes. It would be really easy to see this as comical but within moments you realize just how powerful this image is.
The film deals with the idea of a lost soul that’s bound to their home and forced to watch their loved ones die, leave, be replaced with new families and people and utterly powerless against the unstoppable forces of time and inevitability.
I think it’s obvious by now that I really REALLY liked this film.
The man under the sheet is Oscar winner Casey Affleck. I wasn’t a big fan of his in Manchester by the Sea, but in a role where you cannot see a single part of his body for 90% of the time, he is more compelling than countless of actors who don’t understand that sometimes, less is more.
Rooney Mara shares top billing and has some outstanding scenes, including one where she eats an entire pie in one shot, but this film is bigger than individual characters. The largest amount of dialogue come from one guy (played by Will Oldham) about an hour in. A slightly inebriated member of a party begins to wax lyrical about legacy and what we leave behind on this earth. It starts as just another slightly improvised speech from that guy you try to avoid in situations like this. However, he keeps going and every sentence he adds draws you in as we all begin to contemplate what we’re actually doing here?
I’m going to stop with a scene by scene analysis because we could be here all day.
I want to talk about what, for me, turns A Ghost Story from being great to being a masterpiece. The music.
All of the music stems from a song by the band Dark Rooms, which composer Daniel Hart is part of, called I Get Overwhelmed. If there isn’t a more perfect description of how watching this film is than this song, I’m yet to hear/read it. The score itself is brilliant as well. Taking elements of early modernist string work of Stravinsky and Penderecki, as well as the obvious inspiration from Jonny Greenwood’s signature string voicings from both Radiohead and his film scores.
The way it’s shot is also brilliant. Loads of long takes that just stay in one place. These aren’t Birdman or The Revenant takes that are constantly moving to try and impress you either.
My favorite of these, not the now famous ‘Pie Scene’, is of our leads in bed together just holding each other. It doesn’t feel voyeuristic or too private and after a while, you just start to feel comfortable, exactly how they feel.
There will be people who go to see this film and when they walk out they will hate it, that’s a response I completely understand. After all, great art often creates emotions on both sides.
This is one of those rare films where if you tried to recreate it you couldn’t. A Ghost Story is a truly perfect film and one that I HIGHLY recommend.