- A Ghost Story is a strange bird. It is a somber film where maybe 75 minutes of the 90-minute running time are spent watching a grown man wear a bedsheet over him like a ghost. It can also be described as an art-house version of 1990 film, Ghost, a story of the afterlife told from the deceased perspective.
- This is David Lowery’s fourth film and his greatest to date in 2017. Here he is dedicated to the long take, and it is one of a slew of films to feature the rise of the boxy 1.33:1 frame (from First Reformed to The Lighthouse—American Honey is close to this as well).
- Casey Affleck (he has collaborated with Lowery many times now) plays “C” and Rooney Mara plays “M” and this little ranch in Texas is as much a character as the two of them. They notice an eerie glow in the house, and C has a car accident early in the film. He stays in the house after death and watches M- but time shifts rapidly and Lowery, mostly without dialogue, explores the concept of time, the potential haunting of a house (because of an emotional pull).
- The frame within a frame doorway shots at the 19-minute mark are extremely impressive.
- Lowery should be applauded for creating his own, uniquely patient quiet rhythm to the film.
- Lowery often opts for a shallow focus—and it is a fitting use of the technique as the ghost is observing the other dimension- as the ghost is slicing through time.
- Sublime use of the song “I Get Overwhelmed”- written by Daniel Hart, performed by Dark Rooms—it is tied to the narrative, this is C’s Beethoven symphony—tying to Will Oldham’s impressive monologue (he is in the film for five minutes and gets more dialogue than Affleck or Mara). There are little details in the film like the young prairie girl from the past humming this tune that reward study and a second viewing. The film meditates on time, legacy, faith in some ways.
- The film is very ambitious in its concepts, but not always the filmmaking- and that makes the artistic achievement more modest than some would estimate.
- A gorgeous composition at the 48-minute mark of the ghost in the living room facing the windows— another at the 65-minute mark with the piano set in a perfect mise-en-scene (above image) – these are Ozu’s interiors… or Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Lowery uses some of the same angles over the time periods to show change.
- A few Death in Venice-like lyrical zooms as the ghost releases into the distant future.
- The prologue has Virginia Woolf’s “Whatever house you woke there was a door shutting” from “A Haunted House” that gives the film a launching pad from which to ruminate.
- A Recommend/ Highly Recommend border film
Your review reminds me intensely of The Turin Horse:
“a strange bird” – both unique films
“ he is dedicated to the long take” – both use long takes
“this little ranch in Texas is as much a character as the two of them” – both have two main leads and a small farm that is as important as the characters
“Lowery, mostly without dialogue, explores the concept of time” – both have little dialogue and touch on the theme of time
“pie eating long take from the 25-30 minute mark as she is in pain stabbing and shoveling at the food” – The Turin Horse has scenes like this with the man violently eating a potato
“frame within a frame doorway shot” – both use framing to great effect
“uniquely patient quiet rhythm” – both have calm, methodical delivery
“impressive monologue (he is in the film for five minutes and gets more dialogue than Affleck or Mara)” – both have a long monologue by a visitor but little dialogue from the leads
“meditates on time, legacy, faith in some ways” – The Turin Horse does this by connecting poor country dwellers to the legendary Nietzsche story
“the same angles over the time periods to show change” – both repeat locations to show subtle differences
“The prologue […] gives the film a launching pad from which to ruminate” – both depend on their verbal prologues
Is this connection a figment of my imagination, or is there really something there? I’m inclined to believe the latter must be the case.
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