film's images.

WHEN LYNN RAMSAY'S RATCATCHER SCREENED at the Cannes Film Festival in May. several critics hailed her as ‘the Scottish Ken Loach‘. It‘s a flattering. but misleading comparison which ignores the more meticulously constructed elements of her filmmaking style.

‘Of course it‘s llattering.’ Ramsay admits. ‘because Ken Loach is a great film- maker. But I don‘t think it's the same thing at all. I don‘t think what I do is true social realism.~

Raa'an'hcr draws upon memories from Ramsay's childhood. and views a strike in the 1970s by Glasgow‘s refuse workers though the eyes of a young boy. ‘My films are much more set up than Ken Loach‘s.‘ she continues. ‘We both like to use available light and we both like to get the most naturalistic performances from the actors. But whereas he likes to stay far back from the actors. I often prefer to get in very close. For me. it‘s about using the frame and the composition of the shots in a completely different way. one which is much more contrived.’

In fact. her visionary storytelling style is closer to that of fellow Scot. Bill Douglas. whose autobiographical trilogy My Child/marl. My All: Folk. My Way Home

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'I tend to take fragments of bodies. I like to not reveal the whole thing. It's very .. much what I'd done as a photographer. .‘ .; I’ve always been very interested in photography, in terms of the narrative inherent within one image. Also, it creates a mystery or tension within the frame, so sometimes it's more powerful than showing a wide overview. Emotionally, it has a different feeling, it gets you right in there, but it distances you as well.’

'It's hard to find professional child actors A who are really unselfconscious about the camera, so I tend to use non- - 5‘ professionals. I've used my niece in a couple of my short films, and again in Ratcatcher. There’s something natural about her, in terms of how she can be in front of the camera; it's just her and she understands that. In fact, I think that's her understanding of acting: for her, it's not acting or performance, it’s just, "I am myself".'

’l was trying to make the field feel like a

vision, as if it was a painting that didn't

really exist. So that was a very contrived

bit of imagery, we made that up to look exactly like that. I wanted it to feel as if the house was looking at him, as if there was a presence in the house. When you're a kid, there's something very beautiful, but also slightly scary, about being in a house that hobody lives in.‘

113 rucusr 5—12 Aug 1999


Glasgow-born filmmaker Lynne Ramsay's RATCATCHER opens the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Like her prize-winning short films, it's a visually stunning evocation of her home city and childhood. Below, she talks The List through some of the

Words: Nigel Floyd Photos: Tom Townend

is an acknowledged influence. ‘1 saw them in film school and l was blown away.’ recalls Ramsay. ‘He was such a talented filmmaker. If I could even get close. I’d be happy.’ Like Douglas‘s vision of childhood. Ramsay‘s is often harsh; but it is also lit up by moments of ecstatic release. as when in Rarcatclwr. the twelve-year-old James runs through the sun-drenched cornfield that contrasts so starkly with the rubbish- strewn streets of his run- down Glasgow neighbourhood.

Since she graduated from the National Film and Television School in I995. Ramsay‘s short films Small Dear/1s. Kill The Day and Gasman have garnered several prizes. including the Cannes Prix du Jury (twice) and a Scottish BAFTA. Yet. despite these gongs. and the well deserved praise heaped upon her first feature. the modest Ramsay insists she still has much to learn: ‘I still feel like a student filmmaker; I'm still learning about lilmmaking.’

Ratcatcher is due for cinema release on Fri 19 Nov and opens the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Sun 15 Aug.

’I like shooting high angles on stairs. In this case, because I wanted the boy to feel really small, like there's an unbelievable number of stairs. Also, because of the blurring, you feel like the moment's’ being stretched. In some cases we use a technique called step-printing, which extends the frames and creates a slight blur. It has this strange effect kind of like speeding up and slowing down at the same time.’

‘With the little boy wrapping himself up in the curtain, I like the fact that you can't see his face clearly there's something disturbing about that. I wanted theaudience to see that he would die soon, so there's a shroud idea going on there as well. And then his mother's disembodied hand comes in and slaps him, which brings you back into reality. So you think you’re one place, and what sort of film you’re into, and then suddenly you're snapped out of it.’

‘In the case of the mother looking out of the window at the drowned boy, and then the boy being turned over, it's just ._ a glimpse, so you don't really know who it is. And in her mind it could be her boy. So she's frozen. It’s trying to capture that feeling of, you don't really know what you’ve seen. It's also playing a bit with the audience's perception, by distancing them from things that I don't want them to see.‘