With A Ghost Story, director David Lowery consciously evokes the aesthetic of old, faded photographs. With a rounded-edged Academy ratio and a muted, earthy palette, the film creates a reflective sense of time passed and passing. Fitting, of course – as the film’s tagline boasts, “It’s All About Time.” The aging images presage the way the film flits through time – forward into the future, then back into the past.
That sense of the photographic is shared in the film’s tender, cautious pacing; where the cinematic is about moving pictures, here the images are often so static and simple to suggest a different medium. Lowery’s work is hugely indebted to slow cinema; one particular scene involving a pie feels like a deliberate homage to Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs, for instance.
For those who resonate with the film’s supernatural, white-sheeted ruminations of death, grief and temporality, this is probably a haunting masterpiece (indeed, I’ve seen it pop up on many a best-films-of-the-year list). Personally, I found the message beneath the potent imagery a little shallow; while I’m not convinced Lowery is aligning himself with a late, textbook-nihilism Will Oldham speech, I don’t think he’s found an intellectual or emotional depth under the sheets.