The Atlantic Selects
My Mother’s Ghost Story
Apr 30, 2019
Christian Einshøj’s mother mentioned the ghost in passing. Had her nonchalance on the matter not given her son pause, she might never have mentioned the haunting again.
“She described the encounter not as something unpleasant, but rather a welcome distraction,” Einshøj told me. “That immediately struck me as interesting. What kind of person would welcome a visit from the dead? Certainly, someone who had experienced a great loss.”
Einshøj, a filmmaker, had sought an opportunity to make a movie about his mother for years. But they’d grown more and more distant, and Eva Einshøj told her son that she was afraid of how he would end up portraying her.
Einshøj had almost given up when his mother told him the ghost story. It wasn’t the angle he had expected, but it offered him a cinematic portal into his mother’s life. “I saw her willingness to talk about the ghost on camera as a crack in the armor that I could use to gradually enter more personal territory,” Einshøj said. “The story of the ghost gave the film a focus outside of herself and our relationship that made her feel more secure, I think.”
Einshøj’s short documentary, Haunted, is the story of a family that suffered an unimaginable loss. But it doesn’t deal in platitudes about grief. Instead, the filmmaker opts for a more subtle approach: In following his reticent mother around and probing her with a camera, Einshøj reveals how their family’s traumatic past shaped Eva’s day-to-day existence.
“I understood intellectually that everyone in the family suffered the same, but I never realized it on an emotional level,” Einshøj told me. “Hearing my mother’s stories enabled me to consider her more a person in her own right, and not just ‘Mom.’”
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.