Movie Dictator Club: Ratcatcher (1999)


The first of my entries in the Movie Dictator Club for the month of August, 2009!

Written By: Lynne Ramsay
Directed By: Lynne Ramsay

There are times when I think my creative side has left me. When I finish a movie that captivated me and can’t think of a single thing to say about it I become fully convinced that the creative portion of my brain has failed me. More often than not I have jumped the gun as far as my lack of creativity is concerned, I simply want to connect with the movie right away. With some movies I do form that instant connection, but with Ratcatcher that wasn’t the case. I was captivated throughout the film, but when it was over I was at a loss to explain why Ratcatcher held my attention so. That didn’t last long though, the more I thought about it the more I realized why it left me enthralled throughout.

To call Ratcatcher a pessimistic film would be far, far too kind. I have no qualms labeling Ratcatcher one of the bleakest films I have ever seen. This is accomplished through both the visual imagery and the never in doubt conclusion of James’ life. Before people think I guessed the actual ending, that isn’t the case. Ratcatcher presents a series of images that represent walls to James. Try as he might he will never be able to overcome those walls and thus he will be stuck with the same life as his parents before him. Every decision James makes leads him further down that path because it is the only path open to him. His only chance for escape is death, it is only in death that there is some semblance of hope, some chance at finding solace.

That’s not to say James is a defeatist, rather the above is an actuality of his life. He doesn’t want to die to escape his life, he will live the same life as his parents because that is the hand he has been dealt. It becomes obvious that death is his only outlet, the only way he will ever experience that new house, or those fields of grain. Whether that death comes at the age of ten or seventy is immaterial, but if he ever is to escape the bleakness of his life death is his only chance,

It doesn’t surprise me that a good number of critics were put off by Ratcatcher. It commits the cardinal sin of asking you to think and not offering anything in the way of a happy ending. I’m sure some people watched Ratcatcher and came away with completely different thoughts than mine, but as long as they allowed themselves to think the movie over then the movie accomplished its goal. Life rarely offers happy endings, and when you look at James’ life you shouldn’t expect a happy ending. To offer one would be cliche, instead the ending offered by Ratcatcher is genuine and it hurts.

I don’t want to delve into the technical aspects of the film too much, simply because they are so entrenched with the story that they will become tied to whatever you take away from the movie. I will say this much, Lynne Ramsay allows her characters room to breath and she allows her camera the time to capture everything. Ratcatcher isn’t a long movie, but it feels full, the film techniques Ramsay employs allow that feeling to take hold. I didn’t come away from Ratcatcher feeling deprived of any of the story, and if not for the nuanced use of the camera this wouldn’t have been the case.

I know I have said this before, but I don’t think I can properly recommend Ratcatcher because of how personal of a movie it is. I know my dictator would vehemently disagree with this, but every aspect of the film is personal and thus every aspect of the film is different to every person who sees it. I can tell you that Ratcatcher certainly hit home for me, and that maybe it will hit home for you as well. Either way Ratcatcher is a movie I am glad to have seen, and thanks to FLYmeatwad for the supplementary dictation I was able to.




One response to “Movie Dictator Club: Ratcatcher (1999)

  1. Pingback: Review: Fish Tank (2009) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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