In her breathtaking and assured debut feature, Lynne Ramsay creates a haunting evocation of a troubled Glasgow childhood. Set during Scotland?s national garbage strike of the mid-1970s, Ratcatcher explores the experiences ... more »of a poor adolescent boy as he struggles to reconcile his dreams and his guilt with the abjection that surrounds him. Utilizing beautiful, elusive imagery, candid performances, and unexpected humor, Ratcatcher deftly examines the landscape of urban decay and a rich interior landscape of hope and perseverance, resulting in a work at once raw and deeply poetic.« less
"The Ratcatcher is a hauntingly realistic view of Glasgow Scotland in the mid 70's. The story follows James a young boy as he deals with the challenges in his life like death, guilt, sexuality and isolation. The film mixes realism with surprisingly innocent and in some cases violent scenes to bring together a truly wonderful almost voyeuristic account.
The DVD comes packed with extras. Including an interview with and three short films by Lynn Ramsay. The optional English subtitles can help you follow the dialog through the thick Scottish dialect, not only the accent but also the common sayings for the area. Ratcatcher takes me back to my childhood in the west coast of Scotland. Growing up just west of Glasgow I see how much the film is a true authentic vision of how things where. I rode the same old green and yellow double decker busses on a 10p ticket like James, I had a belt just like James and a coat just like Kenny's."
Poetic, not sentimental, Scottish film.
C. Burkhalter | 09/19/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lynne Ramsay's unhurried debut is, let's get right down to it, quite beautiful. This is one of the most exciting first features I've seen in recent memory. Set in a Glasgow housing project during the 1970s sanitation strikes, "Ratcatcher" presents a perspective of life through the eyes of children. Now this might sound kind of sappy, but it isn't at all. There is nothing cute about "Ratcatcher" whatsoever. Ramsay's writing and direction is quite poetic, but not sentimental, and relies on atmosphere (thanks to Alwin Kuchler's photography and some good soundtrack choices) over melodrama, tragedy, and tear-jerking. Ramsay shows a genuine affection for each and every one of the film's major characters, while at the same time showing their faults, failures, and weaknesses. Differentiation between children and adults seems irrelevent - in "Ratcatcher" they are all imperfect, incomplete people. There is a strong stylistic similarity between "Ratcatcher" and Hamony Korine's "Gummo," both films focusing mainly on "damaged" children and an impoverished community tainted by some unspoken looming dread. But where "Gummo" at times seemed (to me anyway) to resort to shock tactics, or at least hopeless grotesqueries, in its portrait of humanity, "Ratcatcher"'s tone is more one of naïve fascination skillfully captured, a tone not unlike that of the still underrated Terrence Malick. A perfect companion to this style is Ramsay's use of a number of child non-actors, who she directs flawlessly.One thing that really struck me about "Ratcatcher" was that it seemed as though the film's climaxes were all dispensed very early in the film. Within five minutes we witness the death that will haunt our protagonist, James, for the rest of his life. An early sequence in which James discovers some unfinished suburb houses includes a crescendo-ing scene which another director might well have ended the film with. After these moments Ramsay finds a comfortable sense of stasis for the film and stays with it. This is not to say it gets boring or less important by any means - the later portions of the film are probably the strongest. The film's ending is far less climactic than those earlier moments, which is good I think. But the neatness of a reasonably happy (though properly uncertain) ending all the same comes as a bit jarring after the virtual non-movement of the preceding half hour. In any case, you'll be the judge.The lush Criterion DVD edition of "Ratcatcher" comes with a wealth of bonus features. In addition to the standard Theatrical Trailer, the DVD also features a fair-lengthed interview with Ramsay (in which Ramsay name-checks Malick, David Lynch, and Robert Bresson as sources of inspiration) and Ramsay's three impressive award-winning short films (where the influence of Jane Campion seems very clear). Of the three, "Gasman" is far and away the best. In fact, I almost like "Gasman" as much as, and possibly more than, "Ratcatcher.""
Poetry in the slums
James Chong | 09/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"the closest relative to lynne ramsay's haunting and poetic "ratcatcher" is its american cousin, david gordon green's equally accomplished debut "george washington" (also available on Criterion). both films focus on young children struggling to come to terms with the poverty and decay that surround them and threaten to engulf their childish optimism. both films also share a remarkable visual poetry that acts as a filmic catharsis of sorts, lifting the characters and their bleak situations (and the viewers with them) up to a realm of hopeful transcendence that feels justly earned, and is never condescending, because of the filmmakers' empathy toward their characters.but there are important differences between the two films. green's "george washington" maintains a level of poetic distance throughout and is very much grounded by the remarkably unaffected performances of his child actors; and this creates an exquisite balance between harsh realism and high art that is at once deeply moving and haunting. ramsay achieves something very similar, but her "ratcatcher" has more of a social documentary feel (sort of a ken loach meets terrence malick); it is slightly less structured and chooses to effectively insert its audience into the intimate, mundane everyday lives of its impoverished characters rather than have us observe them from a narrative distance. as viewers, we are privy to astonishingly private scenes between young children, such as a troubled boy taking an innocent bath with the town's young, abused harlot. scenes like this one litter the film and are heartbreakingly honest and moving and always catch the viewer off guard.in fact, ramsay's undeniable gift is that she is able to maintain a wholly convincing filmic social realism while seamlessly inserting moments of poetic tanscendence that never feel forced. even the film's haunting, heartwrenching final scenes are infused with a visual beauty that make it impossible to leave the screening room without a glimmer of hope. with poetic moments like these, ramsay provides her desperate characters with a touch of heaven that the reality of their lives simply cannot afford. "ratcatcher" is the quintessential example of art as transcendance."
A bit "drecht", but brilliantly thought provoking
Jennifer A. Brewer | Toronto, Ontario, Canada | 08/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was warned in advance that "Ratcatcher" was a bit "drecht" (Glaswegian for gloomy). That is undeniable, but it is also a very sensitive, thought provoking piece. Set in Glasgow in 1973, the film explores various themes, such as the main character James' guilt over the accidental drowning of a friend, his uneasy relationship with his drunken father and his innocent friendship with a teenage hooker. It manages to weave together all these stories without seeming heavyhanded. The acting is brilliant,particularly that of the child actors, most of whom had never acted before. The adult actors are brilliant, too, especially Tommy Flanagan, who plays James' often drunk "Da" (the scene where he berates James for innocently letting council inspectors into the family's apartment and tells him that "It'll be all your f--g fault" if they lose their coveted council house is an assessment of everything that is wrong with this family.)
The subtitles were interesting. I understand the Glaswegian dialect (by virtue of having a Glaswegian mother), but it was interesting to see how the dialogue was transferred onto the screen. I noticed that the words were transposed on the screen as is, not translated into standard English (i.e. "No, ye cannae" rather than "No you can't"). It actually was better that way.
The ending is ambiguous, but that's keeps what the film in your mind. It also ends on a poignant note. The final scene is the only time in the film that James smiles. All in all, I would not recommend this to someone who wants cheering up, but if you can handle the "down side" it is a marvellous production."
Images and sounds of beauty and death. I bought two copies.
nonki | 07/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"James is trapped. In his life and in his mind. Only he knows what's happened at the canal--he thinks. And then alone just he sees the end.
Anyone, adult or child who's seen the worst echoing despair will understand this film through the most visceral level. James' reality only tangentially touches the filth and bullies around him. Incomplete, under-repair psychological wreckage and a heartfelt two-finger flip are the only defenses he has. He grasps some hope, but it's a life-line to nowhere.
This film drops us into a surging maelstrom of poverty, grief (the horrific scene with dead boy's shoes), guilt, and hormones. In those few moments on the canal-side, everything James relied upon is taken under. He feels deeply but has no voice (both James, and William literally endure with no lines), and can find no path to resolution.
Ramsey's picture is art. It is not meant to entertain, but to rip the viewer's heart out. It's goal is her Truth, not popcorn or pounds. She succeeds on every level. The images are gorgeous, framed for maximum impact. The soundtrack so complimentary that the viewer is largely unaware of its effects. My favorite, and amongst the greatest five minutes in all cinema, is James riding away--as far as the bus will take him.
I own two copies of this film. I couldn't survive without a copy. I've battled some of James' demons, and on the Chaplain's staff at juvenile hall, I've seen the worst they can do. This picture reaches Truth; in a boy, and all who are human."