Monday, March 2, 2015

THE CINEMA OF LYNNE RAMSAY TOLD THROUGH IMAGES & STILLS


It's the details that I love. You can say so many things in a story through the images... I like to show things in an original way, I like to push the forms of visual expression to their limit - Lynne Ramsay


Like the Cinema of Todd Haynes or Lodge Kerrigan, Lynne Ramsay is another example of quality over quantity. In her almost two decades of filmmaking she only has three features under her belt (along with a handful of shorts) but I still consider her to be a "veteran" (not a veteran in the same tier as a Michael Haneke or a Claire Denis, but her name certainly deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Andrea Arnold, Fatih Akin, Bruno Dumont, Carlos Reygadas & Apichatpong Weerasethakul).
Ramsay's work has been on a consistent personal heavy rotation for the last decade so this one is special. I also don't explore a lot of female filmmakers in this series. I know some of you may be tired of reading lines like what I'm about to write but, in my opinion, Lynne Ramsay is a unique female voice in the mostly male populated world of filmmaking (it's certainly nice that everyone is suddenly praising Ava Duvernay & Angelina Jolie for their directorial efforts, but it'd also be nice to see mavericks like Lucrecia Martel, Denis & Ramsay get the same kind of attention).


Enjoy...



Post traumatic stress
Every one of Ramsay's feature films opens right at the start of (or moments after) some tragic event seen through the eyes of the main character. These characters are always in a peculiar position in that they're directly/indirectly involved in these tragic events somehow.
At the beginning of Ratcatcher, James accidentally causes the death of his friend Ryan but because there were no witnesses around to see exactly what happened, he keeps it a secret and we watch the guilt weigh on him through the course of the film.
Morven Callar opens with the title character finding her boyfriend's dead body just after he took his own life. Instead of alerting the police, family or friends, Morvern disposes of the body and tells everyone "he's gone" to which everyone assumes she means he's broken up with her.
And We Need To Talk About Kevin deals with the aftermath of a school "shooting" from the perspective of the shooter's mother.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Morvern Callar
Ratcatcher


The (sometimes) complicated relationship between parents & children...
Calling the families in Ramsay's films dysfunctional would be too easy. "Complicated" feels like the right terminology (technically they're all dysfunctional but that word wraps things up a little too nicely for my taste). Complicated family drama has always been at the root of her work. One of her earliest shorts (Gasman) focuses on a man juggling two different sets of children.
At one point in Ratcatcher James' father slaps his mother but moments later you get the sense that this may have happened once or twice before and its just kind of how things are between them. The occasional slap isn't a relationship ender for his parents, you don't really look at the mother as weak or fragile for being hit, and neither James, his mom or his siblings are even scared of the father character (James' dad is also quietly an alcoholic but because he isn't a raging drunk, we aren't quick to label him as such). And at it's core, We Need To Talk About Kevin is about the complicated, sometimes tense relationship between mothers & sons.
Gasman
Gasman
Ratcatcher
We Need To Talk About Kevin
We Need To Talk About Kevin


Recurring shots
Morvern Callar / Ratcatcher
The Swimmer / We Need To Talk About Kevin
Ratcatcher / We Need To Talk About Kevin
Morvern Callar / The Swimmer / Ratcatcher
Ratcatcher / We Need To Talk About Kevin

Recurring setting: Christmas
Shane Black isn't the only figure in modern films who loves Christmas (note the same position of the tree in each shot)
Morvern Callar
Gasman
We Need To Talk About Kevin




Influences
Terrence Malick's influence on pre-Morvern Callar Lynne Ramsay was more than obvious. Besides all the sprawling shots of grassy fields & sunsets, she even went so far as to use some of the music from Badlands in Ratcatcher.
Ratcatcher/The Red Balloon
Ratcatcher/The 7th Continent
Ratcatcher/Hour Of The Wolf
We Need To Talk About Kevin/Andrei Rublev
Badlands (Malick) / Ratcatcher
But Ramsay's influences (both visually & stylistically) go beyond Malick or even cinema...
Ratcatcher
Little Buddah / We Need To Talk About Kevin
Ratcatcher / Kes


Womanhood
Whether she realizes it or not, Lynne Ramsay is a voice for women in film (even if a lot women aren't as familiar with her work as I'd like them to be). Without being cliche or predictable she addresses issues like motherhood (We Need To Talk About Kevin & Ratcatcher), "girlhood" (Gasman), and friendships between women (Morvern Callar) in ways no other active filmmaker does. Plus the actresses she uses are rarely ever "dolled up" or covered in make-up (there's a moment in Morvern Callar where the camera intentionally zooms in on Morvern's leg hairs and later on we see her armpit hair and "granny panties" as if Ramsay is intentionally breaking convention and showing a more natural/realistic side of women).
Gasman
Ratcatcher
Morvern Callar
Small Deaths
We Need To Talk About Kevin



The presence of children
With the exception of Morvern Callar, all of her films focus on children. Her young characters are usually faced with, or witnesses too, morbid events like the death of a young friend (Ratcatcher) or a school massacre (We Need To Talk About Kevin). Even when the events aren't morbid, her young characters are forced to grow up fast or accept certain things no child should have too (Gasman).
Black & White Town
Gasman
Ratcatcher
Small Deaths
We Need To Talk About Kevin


True stories & adaptations
All of Ramsay's work is either an adaptation of a pre-existing novel or, in the case of Ratcatcher, is set during a real event that plays as a backdrop.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Morvern Callar
Ratcatcher is set during the 1973 Glasgow garbageman strike
Ramsay was originally supposed to adapt The Lovely Bones



Hints, implications & the unspoken
Sometimes all it takes is a look to get your point across and Ramsay's work is certainly an example of this. Subtle looks and not-so obvious body language is an incredibly understated quality in Ramsay's pre-We Need To Talk About Kevin filmography (the element of the unspoken is more than obvious in Kevin given Ezra Miller has an evil sinister scowl or smirk on his face through most of the film and Tilda Swinton looks like she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown). All of Ramsay's early short films have little to no dialogue, and even if you were to miss the opening scenes of both Ratcatcher & Morvern Callar, you'd still be able to sense that James (Ratcatcher) & Morvern were sitting on some devastating news just by the looks on their faces...
This is such an important factor in Ramsay's work that you can even see it in the images used in the previous categories. Not Samantha Morton's face while sitting in the bathtub in Morvern Callar or the look on the young girls face in Gasman at the start of the "Womanhood" category
Morvern Callar
Ratcatcher
Ratcatcher
We Need To Talk About Kevin

We Need To Talk About Kevin



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