Rat Film – Movie Review
Rat Film – NR
Release Date: 2016
Cell phone footage of a dark alley way lights the ground as we hear a thumping and scurrying coming from a plastic garbage can. The handheld view pans to look into the can to find a dark shadow with glowing red eyes in a panic. A giant rat has been trapped. The rat is perilously leaping toward the top of the plastic prison, and thus straight at the camera. It’s pretty freaky. This shot, which opens the film, according to the director, is what inspired everything afterwards.
Rat Film spends most of its running time comparing and contrasting a history of humans attempting to manage the rat population, to humans trying to manage the human population, in the city of Baltimore. As improbable as that thesis may sound, it’s achieved remarkably well.
First there are histories to learn. We follow the history of rat poison. We follow the history of segregation and the manipulation of city zoning to contain race.
Then there are the people. We meet a pest disposal professional who spends his working days responding to various rat related complaints. “There ain’t never been a rat problem in Baltimore,” he explains, “It’s always been a people problem”. We meet people who keep rats as pests; we meet others who make hunting rats their passionate nocturnal hobby.
What’s clear by the end is that the fate of both rat and man are inextricably intertwined.
I loved the experimental nature of this film. The entire movie is edited on a series of popping ticks, to great humorous effect. The narration is droll and unsympathetic to either species. Computer generated maps of Baltimore are used in the place of scenic pans of the city. It sounds very chaotic, but the final result hangs together well to tell an unlikely tight story.
Mild trigger warning: There are a couple of brutal scenes in which the rats are eventually the prey, but as the droll narrator explains, rats are perfect victims for these types of experiments, as they don’t generally drive sympathy the way a dog or cat would.
That’s right, rats have it rough, and by association, so do people.