by Lynne Ramsay
Short film

View a still from the film

As a mother barks at her children to get dressed, her young daughter stuffs her feet into shoes. She clicks her heels together like Dorothy, yet fails to be transported to a more idyllic home. The scene of fractured domesticity is created through a collage of close-up details, as if deliberately neglecting to show us a full picture until the front door slams shut. When the father walks away with the children to attend a party at the town hall, the mother watches on from the window, her gaze trailing behind them. In the background, sickly sweet Christmas songs hang in the air.

When the group stops to collect another pair of children, the son jeers that one of the new additions looks just like his little sister. Despite the minimal dialogue, we suspect that his observation may be more perceptive than he realises. Later, the underlying tension between the two girls ends in confrontation. The father brushes the scuffle aside, with a cutaway of a cigarette packet indicating his own preoccupations. Through such suggestions, Lynne Ramsay paints a subtle portrait of dysfunction. As the family walks back in darkness, we cannot help but fear what their future holds.

Words by Katherine Fieldgate

Gasman begins with a series of actions performed by hands and feet. Shoes are polished and later pulled on. A toy car is sprinkled with sugar, suggesting a sheet of snow. A suit jacket is removed from its protective plastic covering. Words are uttered, but we do not see the mouths from which they emanate. We hear a woman chide her two unruly kids, who are preoccupied with their own vocal performances: one shouts ‘Jingle Bells’ as the other makes engine sound effects. We must wait a couple of minutes before we see a face in full: that of the daughter and protagonist, Lynne.

The film is built on discrepancies between experience and expectation: some micro, some macro. When Lynne recreates a moment from The Wizard of Oz, her mother is oblivious to its meaning. When the children encounter their father’s second family, their immediate response is to make mocking comparisons. The second mother, meanwhile, is underwhelmed by the financial support that he can offer, and bothered by his recent absence. As the characters walk along an abandoned railway track, the film seems to suggest that some individuals and areas are left neglected, while the larger share of the spoils is spent elsewhere.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

Watch Gasman here. Cristina Álvarez López has written about the film for MUBI Notebook, as has Tanya Farley for Senses of Cinema. Lynne Ramsay discussed Gasman in a 2002 interview with Geoff Andrew for The Guardian.

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