Ratcatcher

In the opening scene, as an augury of death we see a kid twirling around wrapping himself up in a curtain, when the kid stops and comes out of the curtain after being slapped in the head, the curtain still retains the shape slowly unfolding leaving an empty space within.

 

There is something that’s fantastic and something brutally real about Ratcatcher. There is a thin line between the surreal and the social, there are black garbage bags lying everywhere with rats scurrying around and the same rats scurry around on the surface of the moon, perhaps not the same rats but rats nonetheless. It might sound cliché but one can’t disregard these stream of images flowing like a poetry. There’s beauty that contravenes the laws of the social order (or should I say disorder), however it only travails in melancholy. James is just a feeble lad living in a filthy Glaswegian neighborhood during the 1973 Garbage men’s strike, and if his environs are grimy then so is his personal living space with the dirt his father brings home in his drunken stupor. In this unhygienic zone, James spends most of his time on the bank of a black canal that literally swallows people, actually kids. And even though he cannot escape his destiny, he certainly beguiles himself into a dream that will live forever. The social scenario is but a backdrop against which Lynne Ramsay paints her picture, and it is only with this backdrop could she push her protagonist into those ethereal realms. James is unaware of its destination when he boards the bus. The destination is that of a healthy promising future, of golden crops and a luxurious home but James is as ineffectual as his parents when it comes to realisation. Ratcatcher builds upon the character rather than plot, the character of James, his parents, his siblings, his friends and the surroundings. Especially his surroundings, for James is constantly interacting with it, be it the canal or the under construction housing estate. James sometimes finds comfort in the company of Margaret Anne, who is constantly abused by the local gang but is allured by James' innocence, even though James isn't morally or physically strong enough to help her in such situations. James also had another friend Ryan whom he accidentally drowns in the canal but stays mum about it when his body is discovered carrying the guilt with him throughout. Among others James has a friend called Kenny, a rather witless kid who ties his pet mouse's tail to a balloon sending him off to moon. 

The aesthetic pleasure dominantly comes from the cinematography. The use of space is phenomenal, the textures of brick walls, the muddy waters, the black garbage bags, the green and yellow bus, the wheat fields, all of these are observed in a manner as though these spaces are jumping right out of imagination. And this feeling of the imaginative comes from the contrast Lynne Ramsay creates between the two worlds, the filthy neighborhood vs the clean new housing estate, the black mucky waters of canal vs the golden crop from the wheat field, the present reality vs the presumptive future. These two distinct spaces are connected by the magical green and yellow bus, that traverses along with the acoustic music of Nick Drake's Cello song. And this journey is shown from the interiors of the bus, it is like a spaceship, as we see the space moving outside the bus windows and James being the only passenger travelling to a whole different universe. This new world immediately becomes James' dreamworld which eventually he'd be denied and it is so efficiently communicated as the door are locked when he goes there the next time. The camera always moves with a perfect pace, any faster and it would seem to be rushing and any slower, it would drag. The frames are built with precision betraying the amount of intensity giving them a very intimate perspective. Though the use of spaces is impeccable, the most important spaces are the faces of the characters. Ramsay often concentrates on her character's faces as to evoke the disquiet waters beneath the still surface. The camera often pans, tilts or tracks divulging the minute details, and these details form a pattern or a rhythm that rather tells us the story of James than the dialogues.


Towards the end, Lynne Ramsay shows us a little hope as the military comes and cleans up the garbage but then immediately plunges us into James' conscious as he is denied his dreams and it is these tantalizing images from his dream that leaves a lasting impression in the end. These images evoke a sense of respite, of redemption for James. It also somehow concludes James' childhood which was perhaps lost bringing him to the same fate as his friend Ryan from the beginning of the film. However Ramsay gives us a choice at the end, the choice between the bleak reality and the endless reverie, asking us which one would you choose?

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