“Respect ghosts and gods, but keep away from them” (Confucius, 孔丘 Kǒng Qiū)
Hoichi gets protection against the ghosts of the Taira Clan in Kwaidan
Ghosts tend to get a bad press but they’re surely not all bad. Many are far from malicious, they often seek company or love in their loneliness, can be enchanting and seductive, but also to be pitied; humans can prove disappointing or react most unhelpfully. In Mani Kaul’s film Duvidha i preferred the ghost to the husband.
Duvidha: fascinating little folktale in Rajasthan. A ghost in a tree falls in love with a passing young bride and assumes the guise of her absent husband, fathering her child before neglectful and mercenary hubbie’s return.
Ugetsu Monogatari: another case of forsaken spouse. A married potter falls for the elegant Lady Wakasa after she admires his wares and they share a paradisal relationship at her mansion, in Mizoguchi’s masterpiece
The Saragossa Manuscript: Superb Polish film (a John Lennon favourite) set in early 18th century Spain, with a “Chinese box” tale-within-tales structure, in which a soldier doesn’t take long to make the acquaintance of ghosts- and very seductive they are too.
Kwaidan: 4 ghostly tales, with gorgeous set design, of which my favourites are Snow Woman (very curious, how she keeps her youthful looks) and Hoichi the Earless. Poor blind Hoichi is given a hard time by the Taira clan…
Uncle Boonmee Recalls his Past Lives: Much admired Thai winner at Cannes, Boonmee is in poor health and visions appear…
The Innocents: superior, unusually beautiful British psychological horror, based on Henry James’ Turn of the Screw, with Deborah Kerr as an afflicted governess
Portrait of Jennie: Touching ethereal mystery (surely an influence on Vertigo?) in which Joseph Cotton is a painter in New York who becomes intrigued by schoolgirl Jennifer Jones with an unusual knowledge of the past.
Throne of Blood: in T S Eliot’s favourite film, Kurosawa’s version of Macbeth has a spirit replace the three witches
Hamlet: Shakespeare again, Hamlet’s murdered dad wants him to take retribution. Cue anxious procrastinating, and Lion King, here we come… Olivier’s version won the Oscar, but Kozintsev’s is widely considered superior.
The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha: This was a big Bengali hit for Satyajit Ray, an adventure for kids (and adults) to enjoy..
The Uninvited: Martin Scorsese lists this Cornish haunted house frightener here on Mubi as his #3 top scary film
Scrooge/A Christmas Carol: Alistair Sim’s “bah, humbug” misery-guts attitude to the festive season is confronted by the ghosts of Xmas past, present and future.
Lonesome Ghosts: bored and lonely ghosts think the best way to fun is to summon Mickey + Donald’s little band of ghostbusters
Carnival of Souls: Hark Harvey’s cult favourite; a woman emerges from a car crash but things turn decidedly disconcerting and spooky
Not a comprehensive list. Some other notables: Ring, Ghostbusters, A Chinese Ghost Story, Ghost, Poltergeist..
Years ago my wife and i survived a nocturnal encounter with one spirit whose loud footsteps we had mistaken for a burglar and which when i opened the attic door let forth a terrible unearthly malevolent roar like a large puma-sized cat. Another time, on a dark windy night in the wilds of Wales, we were both surprised to see the ghostly faceless figure of a very tall monk beside the road, miles from the nearest habitation. So, laughing in the face of fear, throwing icycles down its vest, i intend to investigate a little further…
Of course, notions of the supernatural involving ghosts, demons or deities, have been common worldwide. In pre-literate folk religions, these beliefs are often summarized under animism and ancestor worship. Ghosts are significant in some religions centred on reincarnation too. Ghosts were familiar in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, Japan. Mexico, Greece, Tibet and many cultures. They appeared in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, in which they were described as vanishing “as a vapor, gibbering and whining into the earth.” and also in the 5th century BC Greek play The Oresteia.
Ghosts may generally be solitary essences that haunt particular locations, objects, or people they were associated with in life, but stories of phantom armies, ghost trains, phantom ships, and even ghost animals have also been recounted. They come in all shapes and sizes, some are spectral and wispy in appearances, others totally convincing in their physicality. And the spirits of the deceased must be appeased and respected; ritual feeding of the dead has occurred in the West’s All Souls Day and the Chinese Ghost Festival
Mystical learned astronomer-mathematician John Dee, likely model for Prospero, used to summon spirits in the reign of good Queen Bess; a distinguished necromancer, far above so many charlatan “mediums” today.Read less