Written by: Kate Olivares
I know what you’re probably thinking: who?
With her most recent feature You Were Never Really Here (2017) opening in limited theatres, conversation on writer-director Lynne Ramsay’s impressive filmography remains woefully meager. Amidst the cultural phenomenon that is Avengers: Infinity War, allow me to push up my horn-rimmed glasses to discuss the acclaimed Glaswegian filmmaker.
There lies a very basic divide between movie genres: prestigious interpretivism and escapist blockbuster. Despite the pretension and exclusivity associated with art-house works, the centre of humanity in all of Ramsay’s films is invaluable. Ramsay’s cinematic style centres around two aspects which grant it provocative timelessness: detail and specificity. Her films rarely focus on plot, thereby achieving an incredible balancing act between complexity and restraint. Her characters are enriched by her details and the incredible performances she elicits from her actors.
We Need to Talk About Kevin, her most well-known work about a mother and her sociopathic son, illustrates this. Her affinity for tight frames and unsettling symmetrical composition effectively balances Eva Khatchadourian’s (Tilda Swinton’s) neutral expression of dread. This achieves a lasting feeling of voyeurism from both other characters and the audience, building a sense of discomfort and tension leading up to its horrifying climax. In every instance, she focuses on details and relies on them to tell the story, rather than relying on exposition.
She uses a similar technique throughout her short films, such as Small Deaths (1996) and Gasman (1998). In fact, their condensed nature makes the effect all the more salient. In the world of Ramsay, a flick of the wrist or a can of tomato soup can reveal the entire being of a character. By watching her work, you are invited to ponder, digest, and most importantly, observe. What do you see? How does that make you feel?