A Ghost Story Blu-ray Review
The existence of ghosts
David Lowery's reteaming with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara after Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a suitably atypical look at the life of a ghost.After an unexpected tragedy, a ghost appears in the house it once lived in, unable to communicate or interact with the remaining occupant, it's former partner, and unable to do much but stand and stare, and occasionally interfere with the lights. It seemingly has no purpose, drifting around the house as time passes and, eventually, re-passes. Lowery doesn't make it easier for his viewers to engage with his features at any kind of rational level - not wholly unlike Ain't Them Bodies Saints - reminding us that for every more homely Pete's Dragon Disney flick he's likely to make at least one obscure indie movie that is going to get under your skin.A Ghost Story defies any kind of logic, and should be viewed instead as a mood piece, taking in smatterings of philosophical dialogue, snippets of relationship drama, and a stunning core soundtrack by regular Lowery collaborator Daniel Hart, whose beat-driven efforts give the film some well-earned emotional punch. This will both frustrate and bewilder viewers, although those who get on board with the evocative broad-stroke portrait of love, life, loss across the ages, may well find that it has a strangely alluring flavour, washing over you with every melancholy beat. Likely a marmite film, Lowery has undoubtedly achieved what he set out to.
Picture QualityAs unusual as the film itself is, Lowery somehow manages to make the presentation even more unusual, not only delivering the feature in an already little-used 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio, as it was shown theatrically, but also giving the frame rounded edges like old photos, something that many will never have seen before on a production in the last half a century. Framing it in fullscreen is, itself, an unconventional move, but it does suit the claustrophobic sentiment of the feature and certainly fits the stage play-like single setting. The added curves to the edges are not quite as understandable, but don't necessarily jar with the tone of the piece either, likes staring at old photos it perhaps helps blend the message about time into the presentation.
Exactly the way the director intended it to look
Technically, the Region B-locked Blu-ray's 1080p/AVC-encoded image isn't particularly impressive either, although again much of this comes down to stylistic choices. Clearly the intention is to go for something bland, almost colourless, with a drab and dreary setting bathed in shadows or low level lighting, with nothing particularly to spark up the image. There are some richer tones, but black levels are far from immaculate, and the image - again likely largely due to stylistic choices - is often quite hazy. Nonetheless, it suits the piece and, if you look beneath the surface, there is some tangible detail to be found, which - on close-ups at least - is rather impressive, affording the rooms of the house some nuances, and the characters some finer facial flourishes, hair observations and discernible distinction on clothing weaves. It's likely exactly the way the director intended it to look, right back down to that old photo framing style, but that doesn't make it a very pretty picture, more a pretty old picture.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is much more impressive, affording the least likely demo material not only through an exceptionally strong and beat-laden score, but also through some rather surprisingly keen observations of subtle atmospherics, lending the piece a rather nuanced sound design.
It may not be conventional demo material, but it's demo material nonetheless
Dialogue - which for large swathes of the piece is utterly non-existent and is, in many respects, the least important element of the film - gets clear and coherent presentation from across the frontal array, whilst effects focus not only on a few more striking uses of ghostly 'powers' but also - even more impressively - on subtle touches like the creaking of a house at night or a bird tweeting in the distance. It's somewhat disorientating, lending weight to the more claustrophobic nature of the film and heightening tension when you least expect it. The score is also a surprise, pitching some punchy song tracks across the runtime, which engulf you through full use of the surrounds and ample LFE input. It may not be conventional demo material, but it's demo material nonetheless.
ExtrasWhilst not packed with extra features, there's a decent array on offer here, covering all the bases and headlined by a strong Audio Commentary with the director Lowery, accompanied by his DOP, the production designer and the composer. It's quite interesting to hear how they accomplished some of the ghost 'effects', and how hard it really is wearing a sheet for an entire film, but it is a slightly dry affair, only sporadically addressing the more intangible aspects of the narrative and, even then, often smoothing over them with a simple 'it's not important'.
A decent array of extras on offer
'A Ghost Story and the Inevitable Passing of Time' is an unconventional half hour chat between the cast and crew, who talk about some of their own ghost stories, and reflect upon the ideas the film brings up. There's also a 5 minute Featurette on the score, A Composer's Story, and a single Deleted Scene.
Blu-ray VerdictA Ghost Story defies any kind of logic
Lowery's films are certainly not to everybody's taste, but there's something strangely alluring about this curious alternative supernatural tale, whose style lends itself towards demo audio but, conversely, video that is far from demo, with a Blu-ray package rounded off by a nice little selection of extra features. Worth checking out if you're a fan of the director.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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