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(Reflection Paper) Story + Vision → Storytelling

Reflection Paper on “Gasman” and “The Rats” from “Wild Tales” for My Advanced Directing Class

In a film, every story and vision should lead to a suitable storytelling. A material given to a filmmaker evolves based on the specific vision developed alongside it, which means a single material distributed for production to different directors and production teams would always end up as different films. This magic in the collaborative process of filmmaking allows the exploration of various themes, styles, and depictions, whether focusing more on form or content, or carefully balancing both based on the demands of the story and vision for the project. In the case of the two short films “Gasman” by Lynne Ramsey and “Wild Tales: The Rats” by Damián Szifron, they both prove that specific stories and visions lead to clear variations in storytelling for their intended viewers. 

“Gasman” is a character-driven offering that doesn’t focus on merely understanding story details – instead, it guides the willing audience to find an emotional connection with what is presented and recognized on screen. The intimacy of this poetic film allows the viewer to choose what to see on frame to guide through the needed mindset to actively engage in the figurative elements of the storytelling. When digging through the not so explicit story, it presents itself as a powerful portrait of the innocence and painful discovery of the biting realities in the life of a little girl from a dysfunctional working-class family. Aside from having minimal dialogue, this piece of social realist cinema ironically set during the supposedly festive Christmas season offers just a little plot to dig into, which is intended to be as simple a plot as possible in order to more carefully examine the complicated family relationships and the dramatic revelations a confused, emotionally distraught child should come into terms with. For a viewer who is more attuned to classical Hollywood filmmaking, this film may be more difficult to understand and appreciate, unless one opens up to the intricacies of the small details that serve beyond the literal and more passive conventions of more familiar Hollywood pictures. By focusing on one detail at a time and embracing its serious tone and subject matter, this film further examines the human psyche through fragments of poetic meanings. This leads to a slowly building emotional pitch with a larger story than itself to offer its audience. Simple yet thought-provoking, “Gasman” leaves a strong impression that really lingers long afterwards through its universal theme that presents bitter family issues in the eyes of a young child. 

“The Rats,” one of the six short features in the anthology film “Wild Tales,” is a wildly brilliant and definitely entertaining black comedy that aptly balances on the thin rope between humor and tragedy. Its tale of madness pushed to the limit induces a taste of grotesquely engaging violence and interestingly relatable revenge. Amidst the characters’ exaggerated acts, this suspense film offers enough humanity in characters whose emotions go beyond control. Instead of backing down, the cook from a small restaurant by a rural highway takes the leap in a relatively unexpected fashion as she mixes rat poison into an arrogant loan shark’s food after learning how this customer ruined the waitress’ family and caused her father’s untimely death. Although the upset waitress refuses, unexpected moments eventually lead to: the man sharing the food with his teen son who followed him to the restaurant; the guilty waitress trying to take away the food to the annoyance of the man; and the cook capping off the revenge by killing the man with a chef’s knife. Playing around the extremes of human behavior, this gripping and visually stimulating tale’s dynamic storytelling paves the way to make big, not so predictable moments shine, allowing that much-needed suspension of disbelief to keep the audience hooked. Its intention to captivate viewers with its polished cinematography and soundtrack is pretty clear. As entertainment factor is ingrained in its storytelling, its simple, straightforward narrative capitalizes on its stylistic approach and rightfully sets its mood and tone using uncanny angles and a beautiful sense of space where characters help build the needed emotional ups and downs of the story. 

Each of these two films lives up to its chosen cinematic approach in the service of its story and the filmmaker’s vision for it. While not necessarily perfect, “Gasman” and “Wild Tales: The Rats” shine in their own domains for their consistency and firm stand to tell their tales with a clear mindset and conviction. One goes small, the other goes big. One goes intimate, the other goes physical and visceral. One ventures into the poetic, the other dwells in audio-visual delight. Both films explore human relationships and both are charming in their own different ways. They both stand out in their sophisticated storytelling where one film focuses on going inside the character, while the other focuses on characters actively engaged on story plot points. Each film is meant for a particular type of audience. Some viewers may like or dislike both, but definitely, each film will find enough patrons who will appreciate, and perhaps, even champion it. 

Rianne Hill I. Soriano
Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance production artist working as a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions.

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