Why would anyone dress Casey Affleck in a white sheet and try to pass him off as a ghost? It all started when David Lowery read an article about earthquakes and thought the world was ending
David Lowery spent much of last summer feeling sick to his stomach. The director was so nervous about shooting A Ghost Story that he filmed it in secret. I was very aware of falling flat on my face, he says. It was such a high-wire concept. I went into it thinking it would be fun, a liberating bout of creative experimentation. But it was terrifying. I was so riddled with self-doubt I probably aged five years.
Lowery is now grinning from ear to ear, though. He can talk about his fears because A Ghost Story has neither sunk his career nor made him a laughing stock although you can understand his anxiety. On paper, the films high-wire concept looks bonkers: its Casey Affleck wearing a white bedsheet. He looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost or the phantom emoji come to life. On set, I kept waiting for someone to call me out, to raise their hand and say, This looks stupid. Im glad no one did, because my confidence was already shot.
A Ghost Story is difficult to categorise: eerily beautiful, dreamily melancholic, earnestly sincere and patience-testingly slow (I watched it sitting next to a man who could barely contain his exasperated harrumphs). The film ranks low for scares its more likely to keep you up at night fretting about the meaning of life than to make you terrified of a spirit under the bed. A recent article in this paper included it in cinemas latest big thing: post-horror.
Affleck plays C (the film is too cool for actual names), a musician who lives on the outskirts of Texas with his wife M, played by Rooney Mara. A few minutes in, he is killed in a car crash. At the morgue, Lowery holds the camera still, observing Cs body covered in a white sheet. We watch and watch until C simply sits up on the slab and walks out, wearing the sheet.
Its funny, until its not. The image of ghost Affleck trudging home, sheet dragging in the mud, is piercingly sad. Back at the house unlike Patrick Swayze in Ghost he is unable to communicate with his partner. So he becomes a silent witness to her grief. Time passes, the world moves on, and he is trapped in the house contemplating eternity.
Lowery, 36, wrote the first draft in a single day last spring. Having directed Mara and Affleck in his breakthrough film, 2013s outlaw tale Aint Them Bodies Saints, he asked them to make this weird little movie in Texas. Actually, he texted Affleck, explaining that the role would involve wearing a white sheet. Affleck replied: Sure. Lowery says he doesnt think Affleck even read the script until he showed up on set. Casey likes to do weird, strange things. I dont think he cared so much how it would turn out.