BFI Classics: Ratcatcher

Author: Annette Kuhn

Lynne Ramsay doesn’t make many feature films. Her third feature is due out this year and yet her debut was in 1999. That film was Ratcatcher, and it’s a true British classic. Obviously that means it’s low budget, underseen and underappreciated. It also means the BFI will have their eyes on it as they do in this book.

Ratcatcher was instantly added to the academic syllabus – so to look at the period detail and politics of the time isn’t going to be anything new for those who studied the film back then. This is lucky for those of us that did study the film already; Khun digs deep and refers to specific shots within specific scenes illustrating how poetic Ramsey’s work really is within the harsh reality the family face in the film’s narrative.

The narrative study itself is fairly limited, but as the film doesn’t follow a strong plot this isn’t particularly surprising. Ethereal films filled with dark human poetry and whimsical fantasy sequences are far more open to interpretation than they are about solid storytelling, and Khan knows this. The book looks at home life and interiors as well as the human relationships between the characters.

Towards the end of the book there’s a quick look at the making of the film and its background, and a chapter with interview excerpts from the director, which is where the book promptly ends.

Steven Hurst

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