Lynne Ramsay – The Poetry of Details

Hi my name is Tony and[br]this is Every Frame a Painting. When I say a film is poetic,[br]what pops into your head? Do you think it’s slow?[br]Pretentious? Plotless? “Is she gonna wake up and do something?” These are the clichés.[br]-“No.” But to me, poetry in cinema is when[br]I can ignore the plot and just appreciate the picture and[br]the sound doing something unique. Scorsese: “The films that I constantly[br]revisited or saw repeatedly… …held up longer for me over the years[br]not because of plot… …but because of character… and a very different approach to story.” “The Wrong Man, for example. I talked[br]about the paranoid camera moves the feelings of threat, the fear,[br]the anxiety, the paranoia it’s all done through the camera[br]and the person’s face.” -“It is the same.” Lynne Ramsay’s work[br]has this same quality. Everything is conveyed through the[br]camera, the person’s face & the details “Some things I shoot are very controlled[br]I know exactly why I want them… …I will spend ages to get that exactly[br]right and it’s because for me… …the details in that are saying[br]everything about the scene.” But what can we learn from a detail? Here’s an example. In this scene, a son[br]taunts his mother by misbehaving just before his father… -“Hey guys.” -“Hey dad, how was work?[br]Take any cool pictures?” Notice that the father is placed[br]just on the edge of the frame, because while he’s around,[br]he doesn’t really pay attention. Later on,[br]when he tries to ignore her fears -“He’s a sweet little boy.[br]That’s what boys do.” We still don’t see his face.[br]Instead, we get this shot. What does this detail tell us? Literally[br]they haven’t cleaned up the mess and it’s gotten worse.[br]But what about metaphorically? What does this say about[br]them and their son? What’s interesting about[br]Lynne Ramsay’s work is that the entire story is implied[br]through these detail shots. And she doesn’t get this effect[br]by putting lots of stuff in the frame but by taking things out, so that[br]you focus on one detail at a time. “I think that Robert Bresson had a[br]really good quote about that… It was something like… ‘When the image is doing everything,[br]don’t have any sound.’ “And when the sound’s doing everything,[br]don’t have any image.” I mean, don’t do something[br]too fancy with image.” This is one thing film is great at:[br]evoking a state of mind purely through image and sound. When you work like this[br]everything depends on the framing, the person’s face,[br]and the repetition of details. So let’s go one by one.[br]First, the framing. Ramsay often frames so that important[br]information is cut off from the viewer. Notice here,[br]we never see the woman’s eyes. Meanwhile here, we have a character[br]who’s literally cut in half by a door. In all of these shots,[br]you can guess what someone is feeling but the frame doesn’t let you[br]see them in full. “There’s no place like home.[br]No place like home.” So as an audience, you’re never told[br]what to feel about these people. There’s something mysterious about them. Which brings us to #2: faces. I don’t know why, but some people just[br]look right when you put them onscreen. Even when they aren’t professionals. In most of her work, Ramsay mixes[br]professional and non-professional actors until the two are indistinguishable. “The best actors for me are the people[br]who are like non-professional actors… …You can’t tell where the film[br]ends or begins… …As if they were the same offscreen.[br]They just feel real.” And she picks people who can convey[br]what’s going on inside their head without any dialogue. “He’s the double of my Ryan, innit he?[br]The same eyes.” And #3, there’s[br]the repetition of certain details. When you’re watching one of these films,[br]pay attention how & when images repeat For instance, notice how mother and son[br]imitate each other’s body language. And in the next shot, they do the[br]exact same thing, ten years later. At one point, the son[br]does this with his fingernails While later in the film, his mother[br]does the same thing with eggshells. A more conventional film might[br]explain the meaning of this but here, all we get is one image.[br]And then another. And we have to work out[br]the connection for ourselves. So let’s consider all this over[br]the course of a single short film. This is Gasman, made in 1997. I’m not going to tell you the[br]big plot point. I’m just going to show some details from before and after.[br]See if you can guess what’s happening. “Gonna lift me up, daddy?” At the beginning of the film, Lynne and[br]her father meet a girl on the tracks. A girl she doesn’t know. Before the event, they bond over[br]her dress and hold hands. Notice this shot chops off their heads. After the event, we see them[br]holding hands again, but this time… -“What’s the matter?”[br]-“She’s hurting me.” To appease them, Lynne’s father[br]picks them up and does this. Which mirrors the beginning of the film,[br]when he did the same with just Lynne. At the end, the other girl[br]rejoins her mother. And we’re left on the tracks,[br]watching the back of Lynne’s head. Can you infer what’s going on? What if I showed you this? Get it now? A film like this is basically a before[br]and after portrait of one kid’s mind presented through parallel images[br]and situations. In other words, it’s indirect.[br]Poetic filmmaking. It might not hit you while you watch it[br]but it can linger long afterwards. -“So then what you’re saying,[br]it’s the eye that’s going to captivate-” -“The vision, the vision that he puts[br]on the film, which I… the vision… meaning the actual picture in the frame[br]and what he puts in the film.” -“Which is, I imagine,[br]the way a painter would… …in terms of his aesthetic.”[br]-“Exactly.” -“Ow!” -“For God’s sake,[br]look at the state of my curtain.” -“Because it opens up every possibility[br]for sound, for sight, for form.” Exactly.[br]There aren’t many films like this and they teach us a very[br]different way of making movies. Instead of going big, they go small. They focus on details. They show us less instead of more. And through simplicity,[br]they find poetry. And if anybody ever asks you[br]what poetry means… I don’t know, make something up. Subtitles by the community

100 thoughts on “Lynne Ramsay – The Poetry of Details

  1. I love this video so much I keep coming back to it every two weeks or so and I always want to know the music you use. could you please share it in the comments or description? thanks

  2. I do enjoy watching your video essays Tony and apologize ahead of time for some constructive criticism. Some of them are absolutely great, but it seems like you are great on technical stuff but lose many of us on the more abstract ones that are poetic such as this. Many of us didn't get the little girl's story and as a video essayist, you should note that could be a possibility. Also, in some other videos you mention shot names and techniques without much elaboration and you lose some of us. Still, I am having a blast watching them. Thanks for making these.

  3. There is something subtlety transcendental about this channel for me. I feel my world expanding as I am watching. Thank you for sharing

  4. If you watch all of your vids and take notes like i did you are pretty much ready to make your own little movie. You are really like a teacher :3.

  5. Wow I wish I had found this channel when I was still taking film classes, insanely helpful with putting concepts into understanding.

  6. Can you do one of these episodes on Wong kar Wai?

    P.s.: i love your channel. Keep on with the great and inspiring work.


  7. I have admired Lynne Ramsay's work for a long time and I am happy to see that you covered her films so that more people can discover them. Her use of film grammer to tell rhythm and story between the frames without making it too obvious for her audience, I find refreshing. Especially since I spent time watching hollywood films( they are not all bad) that try too hard to make the audience "get it" that they leave the film saturated with too much expository dialogue and visuals.

  8. Yeah i don't like when you can't see the actors' expressions during important moments. My mind can fill it in, but i'd rather see the acting the vast majority of the time.

  9. I read the video description hoping to find a list of all the Lynne Ramsay films sampled in this YouTube video. However, no such luck. I recognized "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (2011), but none of the others. I hope someday in the future you will add a full list to the video description.

  10. Man you also have great taste in music. I hope I run into you someday and we share a a coffee or beer or something. I'd recognise you by your voice maybe..seen all of your videos so many times now

  11. I'd love to see a movie made by Lynne Ramsey and Michael Bay, just to see how the go big/go small dynamic would work between them. Have Michael on the directing and Lynne on writing / screen play, just to see how the hell they would work that one out.

  12. It's weird, Tilda Swinton gravely eating eggs cooked with the shells still in them has stuck with me more than any jump scare or horror movie moment I can think of from this decade.

  13. I'm not a fan of movies by Terrence Malick, but I'd love to hear your thoughts about why he's so well received by those that 'get' his films.

  14. I was moved by this video until I scrolled down the comments section… because misogyny. Geez, guys, why can't we appreciate great filmmaking without shoving gender issues down each other's throat? Disgusting.

  15. This type of storytelling is very annoyingly underappreciated. People never want to have to go through the work of paying attention. They want everything to be flashy and in their face.

  16. I like the little challenge at the end. Effectively giving people a thirst to know their own definition of poetry. Great video!

  17. Just saw my first Ramsay film (her latest) "You Were Never Really Here" and ……holy shit. Her choice of shots and her use of them are incredibly special and poetic. Just incredibly small details that other directors wouldn't notice or care about, she turns them into the main focus of the frame and elicits so much from them.

  18. Just got back from seeing her new film You Were Never Really Here. Loved it amazing, came to youtube to see a trailer for Ratcatcher and stumbled onto this, great job.

  19. I LOVE this channel. Constructive, well made, analytic, great voiceover. This should be on TV. I reference to this whenever I get questions about film. Thx for the great work.

  20. I want to know how you all do this??? Buddy thx for sharing. I'm your big fan. Would like work with you on your condition.

  21. Cinema has no use if you don't find a way to take advantage of images and sound in order to create feelings.
    Lynne does it in a beautiful way. <3

  22. I feel like I see this quality a lot in UK films by female directors like Andrea Arnold and Clio Barnard. Lucile Hadžihalilović and Nuri Bilge Ceylan are great as well, although I agree that Ramsay is an absolute master.

  23. Poetry is something you feel. I think it's hard to put it into words. But somehow it follows a certain structure or structures we're all familiar with as humans.

  24. I love Lynne Ramsay, yo should update the video with images from 'You were never really here', a masterpiece. Thanx!!

  25. "What can one detail tell us about a scene? If you’re Lynne Ramsay: absolutely everything."

    Then why should I even watch this video? When I see a movie, I pay attention to the story and the dialogues. I don't care about interpreting any camera angles or close-ups. If the director doesn't manage to convey his statements in an understandable way, if he gives "room for interpretation", why should I bother to decipher it? I want clear facts, not "meaningful" imagery to decipher. When I want to solve puzzles, I buy a puzzle or a crossword puzzle.

  26. Poetry is about playing with words. I don't mean just puns and rhymes, but even things like extended metaphors and snowclones, often contrasted with prose (this contrast is also a form of poetry). Poetry as defined by this video is not literally poetry, it's using figurative language to illustrate something about movies, oddly by using a poetic device.

  27. what is the name of the film in the video that shows relation between Korean/Chinese mother and son?? i think it would be interesting movie.

  28. It's interesting…in most other art forms (music, paintings, theatre, even food) the more "artistic" stuff is considered higher end, and cost a premium to have or enjoy. In film, however, the more "artistic" films seem to mostly experience the opposite treatment. What if they were branded differently? What if a cinema charged more money to see a revered artistic filmmaker?

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