While checking for reviews of the film ‘GHOST’ commenting on the fact that the main character happens to turn into a ghost soon after the beginning of the movie, and several other ghosts appear in it, I did find one such comment by a ‘normal’ reviewer, but it was rather like a joke, he was simply asking other viewers: ‘Did he actually dive? Did he jump? What do you think? ‘ speaking obviously of the angry poltergeit ghost who haunts a specific train in the movie. Not deep enough a comment for my research.
But then I found a full separate Review dealing really with the true focus of the film, as indicated by its very title: ghost(s).
It had been written at a late date – ten years after the film’s release (1990) – by an official representative of the Orthodox (Christian) faith, who was asked for a review of that film by someone in his organization. As you will see from my own remarks on some of the things he said, I agree with some of them but disagree with some others, I will try to point out eery time why, as clearly and accurately as I can, so as to really clarify all those points at least for those who visit this blog of mine. Here goes:
“Ghost” is a very engaging film. It presents a view of the after-life which is a mixture of fact and fancy. When compared to the Orthodox understanding of what happens to a soul when separated from the body, there are a number of elements in the film which are accurate and a number which are false. These elements in and of themselves pose no great problem for a believer. What is problematic is the overall thrust of the film.
Here we are confronted by a complete absence of the concept of virtue. There are “good” people and “bad” people. When “bad” people die, like murderers and embezzlers, their souls come out of their bodies and within seconds horrible dark shapes ooze up from the ground with growls and snarls and convey the hapless wretch screaming to the nether regions. This is, in fact, an accurate and wholly Orthodox approach. There are dozens of accounts in the stories of the Desert Fathers and various lives of Saints which support this.
And so do innumerable accounts by people from other faiths, as well as from no faith at all. This is not something special to the Orthodox faith.
So even in the 1990’s, it is possible to truthfully depict the fate of an evil person. The problem lies with how we define a “good” one.
In the film, the hero is murdered in tragic circumstances. After being shot in a struggle with a mugger, he suddenly finds himself outside himself looking at his girlfriend holding his bloody and dying body. The shock and disbelief are properly portrayed as is the fact of him being there watching himself die. This experience of coming out of the body has been well documented at all periods of Church history up to the present time.
Same remark again as already above…
We see a beam of light open, and then close for the hero, Sam, leaving him stranded here on earth.
He is not stranded at all, he is deliberately choosing to stay for a while more, out of love for his companion Molly and in order to find a way to alleviate her sorrow and despair about his death.
He finds other souls in the same circumstance throughout the city as he moves through the story. What we do not understand is what makes Sam so much better than the other unfortunates who were dragged to Hell.
What?!? Isn’t that quite obvious!!!
After all, he and his girlfriend were cohabiting.
Ooooh! This is the problem!… They were not married… But in fact they were considering to, the very night he gets killed, just moments before it happens! And even if they had remained unmarried, simply ‘cohabiting’, does that make their love for each other less real?!
They were both engaged in material pursuits which had no reference to God. They were quintessential “yuppies” of this generation who sought and were obtaining material success while completely ignoring their souls.
How can the writer affirm that in such absolute terms?
They did not seek to harm anybody, nor did they seek to serve anyone—even one another
This is quite untrue. They care deeply for each other, are faithful to each other and live together in as loving a way as the loving people who choose to be married – and in more loving a way than many couples who are married but don’t really love each other. Marriage is no proof or guaranty of true love…
They were simply “nice” people. The problem with “nice” is that it is a very long way from “good.”
Herein lies the real problem of this film. Niceness is the measure of virtue rather than virtue itself. It is my guess that the screenwriter would be hard-pressed to define virtue. After all, there really was no reason this couple couldn’t have been married. It had nothing to do with the plot, nor would it have in any way weakened the bond between the couple and their pain at separation. In fact, having the couple happily married would have only made those bonds stronger and the emotional power of the film greater.
For religious people, yes, certainly, as that is what they believe, but that doesn’t make all these statements any truer in themselves for people who don’t share those beliefs. Again, all those statements are just assertions by a religious person, nothing more.
Instead, the writer decided to denigrate marriage by equating the selfish “love” of a cohabiting couple with the truly spiritual bond made in deeply committed marriage.
This last assertion is even worse than the previous ones, accusing the scriptwriter of having done what this religious person himself is precisely doing all along: affirming that the relationship between cohabiting people is necessarily a ‘selfish”love”, with no spiritual bond and no deep commitment…! True love is true love, whether between a married or unmarried couple makes no difference whatsoever.
This was dishonest
Oh! and now he is accusing the writer of dishonesty!!! Unbelievable. How the mind can blind itself to its own errors, and see them instead in the others!…
and is harmful for teen-age viewers, who are struggling with their passions and only looking for any excuse to act on them. This film encourages such destructive behavior by confusing genuine love with the selfish fulfillment of one’s passions.
Where, please, is demonstrated in the film any ‘selfish fulfillment of one’s passions’ on the part of those very sincere lovers?
Another problem with the film is the promotion of spiritism and mediumism. The medium of the film, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is portrayed honestly enough as a sham and a fake. Most mediums are.
… but not all of them are, on that we do agree!!!
She and her sisters call on Jesus as most mediums do. However, sometimes they are surprised, even as this character is, when “somebody” actually shows up.
In the case of Oda Mae, she is surprised simply because usually until that moment she never had ‘the gift’ active in her, so her surprise comes from being suddenly able to hear someone, not from believing there was never anybody!… Her mom and grand-ma had ‘the gift’, so she has grown up knowing perfectly well that there are indeed some of the dead trying to contact the living who are also trying to contact them.
[For a more complete study of spiritism, I suggest that the reader consult Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, by Father Seraphim Rose.] Who that “somebody” is is the real question.
On this precise point I agree with you.
According to the Orthodox Church, human souls are not left to wander aimlessly in this plane.
True generally, but in the case of Sam, he is precisely not wandering aimlessly, he has a very clear aim, and goes only where he needs to go, either to stay close to Molly, or to take other actions concerning specific other people who can either help her, like Oda Mae, or on the contrary harm her, like Willy Lopez and Carl.
For one thing, it is dangerous, because this realm belongs to the demons.
This is partly true, but not as absolutely so as the author makes it to be, probably because this is a dogma in the Orthodox Church and he has never checked for himself whether it is really an absolute fact or not.
When a person dies who is not completely evil, the soul is escorted by angels during the three days or so that it remains here before the funeral to protect it from demonic attack. In the film, a light shines down and then recedes, leaving Sam to wander haplessly throughout the city. There are no angels or guides to help him, only other stranded souls who have a little more experience.
As already pointed out earlier, Sam doesn’t wander haplessly at all, he is very consciously and deliberately staying on out of genuine love for Molly, at first simply to give her some solace, and then to protect her from the dangers he discovers are threatening her. His own purity of purpose is what protects him all along, and the Light that shone is only waiting for him to be finished with this last task he has to do: the Light then comes again for him, no problem! This is the beautiful end of the movie, which is never mentioned by the author of this religiously-biased review.
But demons never seem to be around at all, except to drag people away. Sam is allowed to speak to the medium and she hears what he says. This is a confirmation of spiritism which misleads the audience into believing human souls speak to and through mediums instead of demons. But a spiritist’s seance is a place where the demons regularly gather and have fun with the unfortunates who submit to them. The film even demonstrates spirit possession of the medium, but again falsely claiming the “spirits” to be human souls instead of demons. This sort of misinformation can only confuse and delude people into believing the spiritist gospel, especially the young.
This whole paragraph is incorrect because again it presents a partial truth (the fact that demonic beings are there indeed, to delude people indeed, that should have been shown also in the movie to warn people about that risk) as if it were an absolute truth. In reality, things are less rigid, not so dogmatic: the presence of demons doesn’t mean that they are the only beings that may show up, some spirits of the deceased also may come if they choose to, often for reasons similar to those motivating the prolonged stay of Sam. Quite often they appear to their loved ones straight in their dreams, or in a half-visible form right in the house where they used to live, to give some important last message for example.
But the saddest part of this film lies in the complete ignorance of spiritual life found in the bereaved girl. In the film, she actually says, “I don’t believe in an after-life.” This is sadly a very realistically drawn character for this age. Because of the failure of all of the mainline American churches in Christianity to present a coherent and factual construct of what happens after death, many millions of people in this culture share this poor character’s dilemma. The absence of prayer and consolation for the bereaved found in this film is all the sadder because of this lack of information. There is absolutely no assurance being given of that Living Hope for which all believers order their lives in such a way as to prepare their souls for death. Such preparation is not even considered in many cases. Funerals are often antiseptic affairs which deny both the presence of the deceased and the power of prayer. Prayer for the dead has been so completely extinguished from this society by Protestant influence, that even believers are often left feeling empty and are denied the comfort that prayer for the Dead gives the human soul.
One of the most powerful components of the Orthodox faith is the revelation of the continuity of life after departing from the body. All of the various memorials and services offered up for the deceased give the bereaved a direct connection to the next world and serve to remind us all of the interconnectedness of the spirit world with our own. Two hundred years of rationalism have effectively removed any official acknowledgment of the spirit world from this society. Spiritism and other so-called “New Age” ideas have moved in to fill the spiritual void which resulted from the suppression of the Orthodox understanding of death and dying. The emptiness of the girl in this film was a tragic portrait of the vapid help offered by the Christian churches in these times. One can fault Hollywood for distorting such ideas as death and dying and the spirit world. But the real fault lies with the modern leaders of Christianity as a whole for leaving this topic so completely ignored.
Well, while I agree with those general observations, and find that situation sad indeed, this film then should be all the more appreciated, for it at least sheds some real light on this so important topic, and by the end of the movie that very girl, Molly, has become aware of many after-deaths facts that will most certainly influence the rest of her life – and some day, her own death too. The distortions seen by the author do not exist, as they are not really distortions, but on the contrary in most instances quite accurate descriptions of what happens immediately after death and in the period just following, if the soul chooses to stay around a little longer – for that option is indeed open for the soul, just as shown in the movie, without compromising its eventual going with the Light, like in the case of Sam.
A last question to be now answered: What made Sam a ‘good’ enough person to be in this way welcomed and invited by the Light and/or the angels it may contain?
The very purpose of our incarnating into physical bodies upon Earth, is to make grow within ourselves the capacity of true Love that usually isn’t strong enough yet in our soul to resist all the difficulties, disappointments and disagreements that are part of all relationships on Earth, however loving they may try to be. Love is not only the challenge for a couple, but also for parents towards their children, children towards their parents. Friendship of course is also an aspect of Love. All human relationships, and the way we treat animals too, and the Earth itself, all this is part of our training in this Earth-school, so that we gradually become able to radiate and demonstrate Love even in the most trying of circumstances. That includes loving oneself too, first of all, let’s not forget that…
In such a secretly purposeful context, the death of a loved one, especially still in his or her youth, is often a way for the one who departs, to activate in those staying behind a deeper questioning about the real meaning and purpose of Life, and to stimulate in all concerned the capacity to love, even beyond the separation of Death.
In the case of the three main characters in this story, Sam, Molly and Oda Mae, all that happens around the death of Sam makes the three of them grow remarkably in each one’s capacity to truly love: in the end, Sam’s face expressed compassion in spite of all even for Willy and Carl when they die, and even more when the dark shapes take them away; and he becomes able at last to say openly to his beloved that he loves her; Molly becomes able to release him and let him go away in the end, without trying to keep him still longer on the physical plane with her; and both of them learn to appreciate the courage and genuine goodwill of Oda Mae, and to respect and admire her in spite of the enormous social differences that at the beginning were separating them. As for Oda Mae herself, a genuine tenderness has grown into her for this couple, although they could be seen just as yuppies that didn’t deserve her help. Before, Sam had to force her to help them, but in the end she herself invites Sam to use her body so that he can dance one last time physically with Molly. Later on, when the two women are hiding in a panic from murderous Carl, Molly rests just like a trusting child against Oda Mae’s protective chest, all class difference now totally forgotten in those two human beings risking their lives together for Molly’s sake. Just before leaving, this time for good, with the Light, the last words of Sam to Oda Mae are, with an appreciative look at her, “Your mom would be proud of you…’, to which she answers with a big warm smile, ‘You are all right too…’, and it is pure Love both of them speak with those simple words.
It is that quality of Love, as Sam reveals while joining finally the Light, that is preserved and goes with us in the end. And, I would add here, it is that quality of Love that makes some of us ‘good’ enough to be taken away by the Light, whether we are religious people or not. The script-writer, by the way, as I found out through some more research, was himself a person given to spirituality, not an atheist or materialistic person at all. His name: Bruce Joel Rubin. I personally deeply thank him for this remarkable film.
- ‘Ghost’ TV Show: Paramount Television Working On Pilot (huffingtonpost.com)