Filmmaker David Lowery doesn’t see the world the way the rest of us do. He has a special sensitivity and genius that he manages to capture on film through story, technique and direction. Like several of his previous films, “A Ghost Story” takes its time to reveal its secrets.
Things move slowly through both enigmatic and emblematic scenes. This spellbinding glimpse into the supernatural follows none of the traditional rules. This is not a horror story, but a haunting story of remembrance and love; of flesh and spirit; of the junctures of the past, present, and future.
With a limited release at theaters this past summer, happily “A Ghost Story” has made Amazon’s streaming list. Save it for a time when you can devote your full attention. Multiple viewings won’t be out of the question since Lowery has created a film so exquisitely nuanced.
Picture a young couple living in a simple, ranch-style house. A long sidewalk advances straight to the front door, and the drive way leads to the street from the side of the house. Neighboring houses aren’t close although you can see the houses on either side with an unobstructed view.
Identified on the cast list simply as “C” (Casey Affleck), the young man and his wife “M” (Rooney Mara), have made a life in the house. Amid their books and his guitars, they define themselves by their ease and grace. They’re clearly in love, but an argument’s about to ensue. She’s ready to move; he likes the house. Because it has history, he tells her. She’s not convinced.
Then the unthinkable happens, and she’s left alone in her grief.
She will leave the house; his spirit will not.
What ensues plunges the film into the realm of the supernatural. C returns in a manifestation of a child’s version of a ghost. Costumed beneath a sheet with cut-outs for the eyes, C moves seamlessly from the morgue back to the house.
The unexpected glimpse into his world as he watches M confront her grief proves to be spell-binding. C will be grounded to this place, to its past and its future.
Lowery’s mastery of the camera sets up long scenes that promote the mysteries of the other-world, that make the unraveling of the reality we’ve come to expect at once disturbing and exceptionally peaceful.
The film reminded me of a few lines from T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton” from Four Quartets: “Time past and time future/What might have been and what has been/Point to one end, which is always present./At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; /Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,/But neither arrest nor movement.”
“There the dance is” indeed.
Rated R for brief language and a disturbing image.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews since 1999.