‘Ratcatcher’, directed by Lynne Ramsay in 1999, is a Scottish drama set in the poor areas of Glasgow during 1973. Two friends James and Ryan run to play near the canal. During a mock-fight, Ryan falls in and drowns, leading to James feeling remorse for his inability to help. Through the film, James encounters gang members and forges a friendship with an abused girl. One day, he gets on a bus and stays to the end of the line, there he discovers a new estate being built next to a field of wheat, and he fantasises about this different and open life. It’s a film of contrasts, between the grim world of the slums during a rubbish collectors strike, and the liberation of the countryside. This contrast is played throughout the film, moving from claustrophobic squalor in which James is constantly engaged with others, to the solitary world of fields and deserted estates. Ramsay uses music, particularly that of Nick Drake and Tom Jones, to emphasise this dislocation, but there is also a strong vein of psychogeography through the film. The movie is light on dialogue and heavy of a story driven through symbolism and suggestion. There are even moments of outrageous fantasy, including one moment in which a rat, tied to a helium balloon, is shown to travel all the way to the moon, where it joins a whole colony of its friends. But it is the sequence of James traveling along the road in the top of a bus, through fields and countryside that stands out and lingers after the end of the film.
Would I recommend it? Yes – there are touches of Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’ throughout this film, particularly in its closing moment, so I’d watch it in a double bill with that.