Saturday, July 8, 2017

Small Deaths

The debut of director Lynne Ramsay, Small Deaths (1996) is an 11-minute short that captures three events in the life of Anne Marie. It's a dramatic, mini-anthology that centers on the same character over the course of many years .

As a little girl in "Ma and Da," Anne Marie (Lynne Ramsay Jr., the director's niece) watches as her mother helps her father get ready for a night out at the pub. In "Holy Cow," the teenaged Anne Marie (Genna Gillan) and her sister play in a wheat field when they stumble on a dying cow. By the time she's a young woman in "Joke," Anne Marie (Anne-Marie Kennedy), has a boyfriend whom she follows upstairs to an apartment, not knowing what she'll find.

You could call this a coming of age story since we literally see Anne Marie come of age over the course of the film, but more importantly, she learns hard lessons in each of the segments about how cruel people can be and the consequences of actions. For its short running length, Small Deaths is unbelievably ambitious.

Ramsay's direction is assured and polished as she captures some of the grittiness and despair she'd film later in Ratcatcher. Her style is economic and says a lot visually without too much dialogue to explain everything. She uses a lot of static shots and overhead angles to illustrate how isolated and vulnerable Anne Marie is while showcasing her environment, whether it be the carpeted living room of her parents' living room, the open wheat fields, or the grimy stairwell of a strange apartment complex.

She also gives us some nicely layered shots that showcase the depth of the frame and combine the key elements of the scene. I especially like the shot of Anne Marie's face in the foreground with her parents in the background as her mother combs her father's hair. In "Joke," when the reveal is made, Ramsay films the other characters in warped wide angle shots that distorts their mocking faces into something almost inhuman.
By the end, we understand why everything has affected Anne Marie and how it has impacted her.

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