by Lash

It’s a poignant tale of love, life and loss. The initial reaction you’ll have to the use of a sheet as ghostly figure with two black eyeholes is probably to laugh. But the laughter will soon give way to a sombre reminder of how life is so transient, and the movie shifts into a serious tone that will linger in your mind for some time to come.

A Ghost Story is the brainchild of David Lowery, who made 2016’s Pete Dragon. Casey Affleck stars as C, or the man, a musician who becomes a ghost after meeting with a car accident. He’s also really the ghostly figure, or the man under the sheet.

After his death, he returns to the home he shares with his wife, M (Rooney Mara), hoping to connect with her. Time passes by but C remains stagnant, watching the world moving on without him.

An experimental movie unlike anything we’ve seen, A Ghost Story is contemplative, subtle and moving. To create this delicate mood piece, Lowery turned to 10 other movies for inspiration.

Spirited Away (2001)

The great Hayao Miyazaki is a maestro in making hauntingly beautiful movies with layers of depth. As a point of reference for his ghost, Lowery looked at the phantom in Spirited Away, “Obviously, that spirit takes on a much different form but for much of the movie it’s a shrouded figure with an impassive face, but there’s so much emotion and complexity in that visage. It also has a charm, a naivety, a whimsy. I love that whimsy and I wanted our movie to capture that.”

Poltergeist (1982)


No ghost story would be complete without seeking inspiration from one of the best. In A Ghost Story, there’s actually an entire sequence that’s a remake of Poltergeist, but with a twist. It’s from the ghost’s point of view. If you’ve seen Poltergeist, you’ll see the familiar portal to the other world.

Under the Skin (2013)

Under the Skin

A Ghost Story’s pace and atmosphere are very similar to Under the Skin, as is the premise. Lowery shared, "Under the Skin (Scarlett Johansson) takes a very simple idea – an alien figuring out what it means to be human – and represents it so beautifully and with such complexity. A Ghost Story is ultimately about a character learning that he needs to let go. That’s a very simple, graspable, commonplace idea. And yet, I wanted to render it with some degree of complexity. I looked to Under the Skin for inspiration as to how to do that."

Orlando (1992)

A movie about how a man transcends time, and logic, to become a woman, and lives for four centuries. This Virginia Woolf’s novel turned movie is a fascinating concept to Lowery. "Orlando (Tilda Swinton) is about a great many things, but one of those things is time. The way in which Virginia Woolf uses time has had a great impact on me as a storyteller. Orlando is about someone who exists outside of time, and that concept fascinates me," explained Lowery.

Old Joy (2006)

This movie’s biggest inspiration didn’t lie on in its story, which is about the reunion of two old pals, but the actor Bonny Prince Billy. Lowery is a huge fan of the musician/ actor, “I loved his presence and felt so at ease watching him on screen. I made a mental note that I wanted to work with him and have now made three films with him in various capacities. He’s the sinter point of A Ghost Story in many ways, and I have Old Joy to thank for that."

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

In the movie, you’d notice how Lowery focuses on the little activities in everyday life, because it’s these actions that make up the bulk of our lives. In Jeanne Dielman, that’s exactly what happens, “we watch a woman go through her daily rituals over and over again. The cumulative effects of all these quotidian activities are monumental and really impressive. I wanted A Ghost Story to function in a similar way. I wanted to cast a spell over the audience, not with anything overt, but with the sheer mundanity."

Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Exploring the deeper themes in the movie, Lowery looked to this Mexican movie that tells the story about an urban family’s shift to the rural countryside and how they must survive or risk falling apart. "I love how dense the movie is with symbolism, surrealism, and magical realism. It’s a movie that you really have to dig into, and it’s well worth digging into,” he explained.

Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003)

Looking eastwards, Lowery found a gem in Malaysian-Taiwanese director Ming-liang Tsai’s drama comedy, about a handful of patrons going to a Chinese cinema’s screening of its final film. He was especially taken with the director’s style, "the way in which these extremely extended takes can manifest humour, sadness, slapstick, and mystery really were more pronounced in this film than in any of his others that I’d seen prior to that."

River of Fundament (2014)

Lowery loves the vastness of this movie that was inspired by American author Norman Mailer's 1983 novel Ancient Evenings. He shared, “One of the things I love is how huge and operatic it is and how physical it is. It feels like it’s a regurgitation of something."

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

One look at the movie and you can guess where Lowery gets the idea of the handmade approach to represent ghosts. He enlightened, “the idea that director Apichatpong Weerasethakul could take such a goofy image and make it mysterious and moving was a great source of inspiration on me. In A Ghost Story, we try to take a goofy Halloween costume and render it mysterious."

A Ghost Story