Coming from a late morning funeral mass where Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 was read by a dear friend, I found myself mediating on “there is a time for everything” ~even death.
” A time to be born and a time to die…A time to keep and a time to throw away” was still ringing in my ears, when I decided it was time to see the film touted for its own meditation on grief. “The Ghost Story” was more a meditation on place: its evocativeness, its history,its ultimate mystery.
Director David Lowrey uses the story’s circular structure to show us that ghosts reside in the place where they felt most real. Are ghosts nostalgic? This story tells us “yes”. Choir music emphasizes their patience, their somber waiting for a return. Letting go is not as hard as it is impossible when time has no real significance. There is ” no getting on with it”. The “gravitas” of the ennui is like studying the phenomenology of time.
With this said, the film works only as a means of bringing us to the awareness of Virginia Woolf’s world view:” Whatever turn you take, there is a door closing.” Some of the same ghostly tropes of light prisms’ wall-dancing and wisps of fog slowly rolling over terrain are seen, but forward action is confusing when ghosts don’t abide by linear moments.
A young couple, Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, are viewed in soft pillow talk and laughter. Breathing the same air, they drift off and a sound awakens them. They investigate, but yield nothing. A train sounds. Then we see them tugging bookcases and filing cabinets to the curb, moving old trunks. A slowly moving dolly-held-camera rolls the action at a snails’ pace.
Early morning work does yield a car wreck right outside the drive. Affeck’s dead head resting on the steering wheel tells us much will change. Rooney’s morgue scene is not as heart-wrenching as Affleck’s previous one in “Manchester By The Sea” ( reviewed December 3rd, 2016),but here we see an almost cartoon image of Affleck’s body rising from the morgue table to a sitting position and remaining the silent narrator for the remainder of the film.
Much has been written about Rooney’s whole pie-eating, succour-striving scene, but it is the ghost’s view of the the prairie family who once camped on his home’s land that draws us into grief. Skeletal remains and decomposed bodies out-rank white-sheeted sadness everytime. I was a tad disappointed with the lack of dramatic anguish. Numb goes only so far. I was content with the absence of any Terry Mallick pretentious pomposity when it came to life and its opposite. A brave, risk-taking treatise, if not the best movie.