Gasman (1997)

2008 #76a
Lynne Ramsay | 15 mins | DVD | 15

“Gritty”, “realist” and “indie” are just some of the stock terms that immediately jump to mind when watching this short, which directly enabled Ramsay to make her first feature, Ratcatcher.

Films with such words attached are not automatically to my liking, but Gasman succeeds in using the associated techniques to tell a simple story of complex emotions and meaning for the characters involved. There are times when its documentary-like style is indulgent — the opening goes on too long, for example, and some shots seem deliberately obscure — but it also relates the story effectively and produces a few beautiful views too.

Even cleverer is the use of sound: there’s virtually no dialogue, so the occasional half-heard splashes, often amongst background chatter, are all the more telling. Mostly this is in a subtle fashion, though the key phrase that reveals all is both pretty blunt (though not inordinately so) and repeated an awful lot in a very short space of time.

Gasman is not wholly successful, then, though it does have an interesting story with a strong ending, dialogue-free, that both completes the plot and leaves you wondering what happens next.

4 out of 5

This short is available on the DVD Cinema16: British Short Films, as well as the Criterion Collection and Pathe/Fox releases of Ratcatcher.

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