Writer-director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a contemplative tone poem on the vast expanses of time, captured in a single relationship between two people. As the two main characters reach a turning point about where they are going to live, a car accident removes one of them from the equation – except that it doesn’t. After the body is identified and the sheet pulled back, the body erects itself, walks out of the morgue, and starts observing.
The Matrix is replete with allusions to classic philosophical ideas. The plot references Plato’s Cave and the world of forms, Descartes’ First Meditation and the evil demon, and Hilary Putnam’s “brain in a vat” scenario – all ruminations on the nature of reality and the possibility that we only perceive an illusion. The film also considers the tension between free will and determinism, mostly conveying its stance on this fundamental philosophical issue not through long-winded discussion, but through an essential tenet of Romanticism: the plot hinges on the genuine choices made by its characters.
In the mission statement of this blog, I indicated that I would be approaching the field of film criticism from the perspective of a particular school of aesthetics – Romantic Realism. But, in order to establish what is meant by “Romantic Realism”, to explain its principles and apply its methods of analysis, there is a little background work that must be done first. There is a hierarchy to any field in philosophy, and we can’t begin with Romantic Realism without first discussing aesthetics as a whole, particularly in the context of film. This is the purpose of my first post on aesthetics – to define precisely what is meant by “film aesthetics”, and to provide a foundation on which we can build more complex ideas.