Ratcatcher (1999) movie poster

(1999) dir. Lynne Ramsay
viewed: 01/06/03

Funny thing about the best movies that I have seen that I try to write about. Often I sit to write about them and find myself almost completely dumb, speechless.

That can’t bode well for writing about film now, can it?

Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay’s first feature film, Ratcatcher left me almost exactly so dumbstruck. A description of it truly does it no justice, as it is in many ways incomparable. In short, it is a film about a boy, living in the Glasgow slums in the 1970’s with his family. The actors are largely non-professionals, which adds to the film an aspect of realism, by which I mean its kinship with such styles as Italian neo-realism, etc. It’s a stark portrait, in which I found myself constantly dreading the looming disaster, which might be enough to put off a viewer that wasn’t up for a film that might be termed a “downer.”

The cinematography is stunning. Ramsay has a background in still photography, which shows itself in long lingering close-ups of the faces of her characters and in the evocation of “place” in gritty establishing shots. It’s amazing the way that the film shifts into more surreal states while remaining almost entirely in the “real” world, eventually evoking a dreary but affecting dream of some sort, elevated almost.

See? I really don’t know what to say about this film, which I think is probably one of the best films that I have seen in years and as interesting as any that I have seen in that time.

The film’s images have filled my head all day. The final shot of the canal, the image of the cornfield through the window of the new housing development, the bathing scene. I hesitate to give any plot points away because I enjoyed the blindness of knowing the film’s next moves.

Highly recommended viewing.

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