Ratcatcher: A Flashlight Cinema

For Criterion: liner essay on "Ratcatcher" (Lynne Ramsay, 1999)

I’ve written the liner essay for Criterion’s blu-ray release of Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher (1999). Here’s an excerpt:

Rather than straining to attach the film to a lineage of British realism, it might instead be more useful to think of its place in the development of Scottish cinema. Scholar Duncan Petrie reminds us that, for a long time, Scotland was represented on film not by its own people but by outsiders. Classic works such as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going! and Vincente Minnelli’s Brigadoon constructed a Scotland of the imagination that was (in Petrie’s words) “romantic, rural, and picturesque.” This changed in the 1970s with the Bill Douglas trilogy (My Childhood, My Ain Folk, My Way Home) and Bill Forsyth’s debut film, That Sinking Feeling, which helped put the country on the global cinematic map. Poet Margaret Tait was the first Scottish woman to make a feature, in 1992 (Blue Black Permanent); and with Ratcatcher, Ramsay became the second. This brilliant group of Scottish works is extremely diverse but nevertheless united by its proximity to an art-film tradition that combines a formally bold audiovisual style with psychologically ambiguous portrayals of character—a tradition associated more with European than with British cinema.