Many filmmakers have spent decades examining the meaning of life and the state of existence, but we don’t often get the chance to explore the idea of existence after life. True, films like “Ghost” and whatnot have taken a more dramatic idea toward existence after existence, but what if the after life is nothing? What if there is no darkness or hell or heaven? What if there is simply the essence of what we once we lingering on and on after we reach some kind of conclusion and then cease to be for all eternity? Much of what David Lowery wants us to focus on is only important within the context of where the ghost of our protagonist is and what he chooses to focus on. A lot of M’s life is left for the character within the narrative to deal with and to hold on to, all the while Lowery focuses on the now.
What happened to C and how he got in to a car crash, who crashed in to him, why they did it? None of that is important. What matters is that M exists within some loose meaning of the term when he emerges from his table after he’s died. Director Lowery holds on to scenes for a very long time, and though C’s emergence has every chance to be spooky, it’s quite heartbreaking. In the end, he’s merely an object under a white sheet, alone on a bed under the dim lights of a hospital. Lowery is very good about what to keep ambiguous, allowing us many questions about his idea of the afterlife without making us feel like we’re being kept in the dark. His concept of the after life is mysterious and confusing and in a way hopeless.
When C leaves the hospital, we hear the roar of fire crackers and a bright doorway opens up. C for a moment stands at the doorway and then turns to drift off in to the house he shared a life and love with his young wife only known as M. Maybe he’s lost his chance at heaven, or maybe he had only one window of opportunity, we may never know. “A Ghost Story” is probably the most polarizing film of 2017, because while it’s not horror, it’s indeed about the concept of existence and if we really do exist after life even if we don’t fit in to the traditional philosophical ideas of existence. Whether or not C ever shows to have a consciousness or emotions is mostly left in the air, especially when you consider he might not even have a human form after he’s died.
Most of what he accomplishes as a ghost seems gradually based on what he remembers or how he thinks he should react to certain stimuli. Director Lowery depends heavily on exploring how ghosts defy the meaning of existence as well as the conventions of time and matter. C can soon see back and forth within an instant, but it doesn’t mean much of anything since he can’t affect his environment to where it’s significant. So the ultimate question remains if C exists as a ghost in a new plain or is he merely a footprint in a vast dimension of various other footprints? “A Ghost Story” kept me pondering and second guessing its ideas long after the credits have rolled; it’s a gut wrenching and hypnotic meditation of being and love.