Death and Comfort: A Few Minutes with David Lowery, Writer & Director of ‘A Ghost Story’

Posted in Interviews, Movies, Theatrical by - July 20, 2017
Death and Comfort: A Few Minutes with David Lowery, Writer & Director of ‘A Ghost Story’

A Ghost Story certainly isn’t among the scariest films of the year, but surprisingly it’s intensely intimate. A relationship that is finding some disagreement comes to a sudden halt when one half the partnership (Casey Affleck) dies in a car accident. He returns, however, as a ghost with the task of finding comfort, however and whatever that may be.

“I had this image of this ghost, I had a two month window in the summer, and I wanted to make a film. I was really anxious,” explained writer and director David Lowery, who sat down for a conversation ahead of the film’s wide release. “Alongside that anxiety were all sorts of other anxieties, I know those played into the writing process on a subconscious level. I can see all my fears and worries and everything going on in my life see them in film.”

Lowery sees himself in Affleck’s character, who for much of the film wears a sheet with eyeholes in them, a collective childlike image of a ghost that is still unnerving, though in a more somber way. We and the ghost watch as his partner (Rooney Mara) grieve, move on, and then as the house he has grown attached to is occupied by others. Time passes much more quickly for our spectral friend, as we get a glimpse into the future and the past.

“As intellectual as the approach was thinking about the story and how one scene connects to the next,  it was still an intuitive process I didn’t check myself on,” said Lowery. “I wrote it so quickly. Once it was done, it felt it was what it needed to be. I didn’t analyze or dig into it, I just let it be.”

Still, in a film with such little dialogue save for a lengthy speech in the middle that dabbles in the true meaning and purpose of life, there is much contemplation, introspection, and speculation. What is the ghost seeking, and does he even know? Do any of us know what we’re looking for?

“Existential dilemmas are very personal, things that keep me up at night have to do with both relationships with those closest to me in life, and the fate of the universe at large,” continued Lowery. “It’s hard for me to separate the two. I worry about all the things people worry about. I was writing this movie at a time when the entire world felt hopeless, there was no future of anything. It was hard for me to find ways to remain positive, and I wanted to, I’m a very positive person, I don’t want to wake up every morning with this weight on my shoulders. But that was the world I was living with. I had to acknowledge those things and engage with them, but I can’t let myself get down, I have to find a way to stay hope. This movie in some ways is about my process to figure it out. “

Lowery jokingly wondered how the film might have changed had he made it following the 2016 presidential election, but he remains that despite all the negativity and feel in the world, positivity and hope should and will prosper.

“I left the experience feeling much more at peace than before, there was an unquantifiable quality to it, watching it from beginning to end, it worked on me in a way I hadn’t expected,  itleft me comforted,” he said. “I like knowing a movie I made worked on me that way. Usually I can see right through, it was satisfying.”

He even wrote an alternate ending, but it didn’t feel right. At this point, yes, a spoiler follows.

“There was an alternate ending,” said Lowery, where the ghost  “reads the note, and the next thing you see is the family moves in again, because the loop is repeating. That would be the hopeless version, because he was stuck. It was a negative nihilistic moment that meant nothing. It definitely was not what this movie needed. And not what I needed.”

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.