Taking the uncanny to a cosmic level within an economical conceit, US filmmaker David Lowery’s fourth feature A GHOST STORY reunites his two stars from AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (2013), Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, who play a couple separated by mortality when the husband dies in a car accident. He subsequently returns in their suburban domicile as a ghost covered in a white sheet with two black holes pinch-hitting for his unfathomableeyes, to watch his wife’s grief process and the following transcendence.
Boxed up in the standard-definition television aspect ratio (4:3) the film presents itself as an intimate, navel-gazing slow cinema hopeful in its first half, as we are privileged towatch Mara wolfing down a pie for a good 4 minutes before nausea prompting her to spew. A visceral but cookie-cutter signpost of what one will do when she/he is bereaved. But please rest assured that things are going upward henceforth, the film's viewpoint is unerringly set in the ghost’s motionless gaze, invisible to the mortals around him, he is pigeonholed in a perpetual“waiting” presence by the aftermath (choosing to stay on earth in lieu of going with the light to another realm, bang-up special effects are implemented with astute ingenuity sporadically), but what is he waiting for?
In the midstream, he notices there is another ghost like him in the neighbor house, and through their gnomic communication, the latter tells him that he is waiting for someone he can no longer remember. When his wife finally leaves and starts her new life somewhere else, the ghost remains in situ, andexpresses his frustration when new tenants move in, so before long the place becomes a haunted house and is expected to be bulldozed along with the one thing the ghost cares, a paper note left by his wife in the interstice of the wall, which he has yet to obtain (it is very difficult for fingers to poke under a sheet, honestly).
As if to compensate the laconic narrative hitherto, just before the annihilation,Lowery introduces a jabberingWill Oldham to hold forth about the conception of human’s endeavor of preserving our legacy, which becomes no less befuddling and cringe-worthy than the pie-eating sequence: the gist is blasé and the posture is pontifical.
Afterwards, the ghost maintains his locus through its topographic transformation into a skyscraper, when he finally gives up his oceanic waiting, a seismic change brings him back to the jumping-off place in the 19th century, when the place is first touched by the hand of a modern civilization. He again waits, for centuries until he watches himself and his wife move into the house, and latches onto that he is incapable of alteringtheir preordained kismet (only resulting more ghosts), when he finally snatches that note and reads its content, he vanishes under the sheet.
“Whatever hour you wake there was a door shutting” from Virginia Woolf’s A HAUNTED HOUSE, is the preambleLowery leaves in the open, and as a reverential experiment trying to enlighten us with something elemental about a parapsychological universe, the film is at large worth its salt in spite of its artistic pretension andwhat categorically leaves an indelible savor isDaniel Hart’s eerie, lamenting string score andLowery’s canny sense of cinematic composition.
referential points: Christopher Nolan's INTERSELLAR (2014, 8.5/10), Shane Carruth’s UPSTREAM COLOR (2013, 7.4/10).