Once, several years ago, I had a conversation with one of my best friends on the existence of ghosts. He was at the time dating a girl who had a crazy streak in her, and who tended to believe in everything supernatural. My friend liked discussing the ideas with people, and around one in the morning at an all night donut shop we began talking about it.

The general conclusion we came to is that, like most religious beliefs, there is absolutely no rational reason to believe in ghosts, but at the same time the idea is much more beautiful than most other superstitions. We came to the conclusion that we had to believe in ghosts, because it was too pretty an idea not to.

I have been in to the idea of ghosts for some time, mainly the metaphoric idea that someone is both there and not there, that someone is both alive and dead, and that a person is in the constant state of watching (which seems to be most of what ghosts do). And of course, if one looks closely at my description of ghosts, one can see that it is really cinema that I am describing.

There are a number of films that play with this idea of cinema, most notably ‘Wings of Desire,’ and ‘Russian Ark,’ but I find where the idea takes on most resonance is when watching early, pre-1913 films (or Italian Neo-Realism films). The emphasis on seeing in these films, constantly foregrounds the presence of the past, and the spectatorship of the act of living, which are the two defining features of non-plot based cinema.

Its rather easy to romanticize ghosts, they belong to a romantic past, they watch the living with desire, they are absorbed in their memories, they are the first to notice the beauty of the simple act of living.

In a film theater, one can never tell if the ghosts are the characters on screen or the people in the audience.

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