Friday, December 11, 2009

Review: Ratcatcher

Garbage is piling up all around the neighborhood due to all sanitation workers being on strike. All this refuse lying around suburban yards appears meant to symbolize the people who live in this place. Young children frolic wantonly upon mountains of garbage, while their adolescent peers rape, murder, and pillage throughout the neighborhood. These kids are trash. It is clear that the filmmaker wants us to make this connection. The adults have produced these children and then carelessly strewn them all over their front yards, paying no mind to the damage they cause, just as they do with the rotting bags of trash.
Scottish writer/director Lynne Ramsay's 1999 film Ratcatcher is not about a literal catcher of rats. It begins with the the accidental drowning of a young boy while playing with his friend. That friend is James, an aimless 10-year-old in 1973 Glasgow who provides the stoic little center of the film. The canal is the ratcatcher, and the children are the rats, frolicking in garbage and treating everyone with an antisocial, rodent-like regard.
Ratcatcher is in a spiritual and thematic cousin to two seminal American films: Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, and Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show. All three films concern and explore elements and emotions of childhood that are rarely discussed, either in cinema or in everyday life. Also, each film is essentially without traditional plot, instead opting to follow its characters’ through their everyday lives, finding theme and profound meaning by the end.
Also like those two older films, Ratcatcher is brilliant, beautiful, and mesmerizing. Every element is staggering in its dreamlike authenticity and comes together to create a film that contributes immensely to the cinematic language.

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