Film as an art form continues to influence the way we view the world, perpetually reimagining the boundaries of what are considered current aesthetic trends. At the forefront of these boundaries is a prevailing interest in the aesthetics of the ‘everyday’. Emerging from an experimental period during the 1950’s and 1960’s, a new type of film-making known as ‘British New Wave’1 became synonymous with cinematic representations of everyday life. These films, along with the development of Social Realism, aimed to challenge the clichés presented by mainstream cinema. Presenting instead, the often-ignored details of everyday life from a working-class perspective. As documentary styles within Social Realism evolved, directors with more art-based backgrounds began merging the aesthetics and principles of art within film-making. Directors from creative backgrounds have thrived within the Social Realism genre and the importance of artistic qualities within film aesthetics continues to influence mainstream cinematic trends.2 The combination of social observation from a ‘working-class perspective’ and the exposure of ‘popular aesthetics’ generates a conflicted pairing – the potential resulting issues of romanticisation and exploitation will also be addressed, particularly within film, where there is significant responsibility for diverse and sensitive representations of class.
It is my intention to explore these themes in relation to the film directors Clio Barnard (fl.2000-present) and Lynne Ramsay (fl.1995-present). Focusing firstly on Clio Barnard and then moving on to Lynne Ramsay. Both directors have contributed to modern-day representations of everyday British life and both have been recognised within the industry for doing so. By examining the work of these directors in relation to observation of the quotidian, I will aim to contrast and compare their individual styles and influences, acknowledging any similarities that arise such as their enthusiasm for covering difficult themes in order to represent their subjects in the most authentic way. I will be considering both Lynne Ramsay’s and Clio Barnard’s fine/visual arts education as an academic background that distinguishes them from more traditional representations and, as a consequence, associates their work with a more stylised aesthetic. Their fine art backgrounds have had significant influence on the visually poetic qualities within their films, differentiating them from previous directors concerned with Social Realism.
Due to the combination of art and social realism being a relatively recent progression, I will also be researching academic essays that investigate ‘the everyday’ as well as works involving Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard in order to draw parallels. More recently, book compilations concentrating on the theme of the everyday such as ‘Art and the Everyday’3 by Stephen Johnstone have recognised its importance as a prominent aesthetic within art, tracing its emergence back to the Situationists and the Fluxus movement, Conceptualism and the Feminist art of the 1970’s.
In the first chapter of this essay, I will examine the history of British film to give an insight into the influences and cultural climate that have enabled Barnard and Ramsay’s emergence. By including key developments ranging from the documentary movement of the 1930s, the emergence of Social Realism in the 1950s right up to current realist filmmaking, I will trace the representation of the everyday and its progression into current culture. Providing a wider understanding of how the themes of the ‘everyday’ evolved within cinema. I will be referencing academic sources, particularly in chapter 1 and 4, which will allow me to gain a wide variety of contextual research and professional opinions surrounding my essay.
In chapter 2 and 3 I will analyse the work of Barnard and Ramsay in more detail. I will refer to the films ‘The Abor’ (2010) by Clio Barnard along with ‘Movern Callar’ (2002) and ‘Ratcatcher’ (1999) by Lynne Ramsay, as examples of how particular works have contributed to the evolution of a contemporary visualisation of the everyday. I shall be examining the technical aspects and artistic choices made by the directors and the draw attention to the details that make their work distinctive. An in-depth analysis of their artistic backgrounds and influences should provide links to other art mediums (such as photography) and allow me to question whether it is Social Realism as a documentary genre or a combination of art and Social Realism that is responsible for the ’everyday’ aesthetic phenomenon.
The fourth chapter will look at definitions of ‘the everyday’ and Social Realism’s impact on its representations. Whilst looking in more detail at any potential issues associated with everyday aesthetics as a ‘style’. Social realism, as a general theme, is usually linked to political awareness (and in some cases masculinity4) however, I will be concentrating on what Social Realism means in terms of its creative impact on culture, and whether those particular aesthetic values are becoming the dominant preference. I am interested in questioning the motives of modern Social Realism – and how my chosen directors have emphasised the qualities of the everyday? Could there be basis for the identification of an alternative form of Social Realism? One that combines the verity of documentation with artistic sensibilities. As Samantha Lay states: ‘their [documentarists] commitment to document the ‘truth’, a sociological rather than aesthetic commitment, is reflected in their practice, from the use of non-actors and ‘ordinary people’ to location shooting’5. However, I would argue that their films and these techniques used, are as much to do with stylised art-related aesthetics as they are committed to visualising an ‘objective truth’.
The emergence of ‘the everyday’ in film can be traced back to the ‘British Documentary Movement’. Prior to World War II, cinema was a combination of newsreel (often bleak information about the war and poverty) and light comedy/romance (a social ‘sweetener’ to provide escapism and comfort). However, the state-sponsored documentary style of the 1930s6 was expanded by the introduction of Humphrey Jennings’ documentary montages such as Listen to Britain (1942) and Spare Time (1939). As Lindsay Anderson reflects: ‘Ordinary people are sharply glimpsed in them, and the ordinary sounds that were part of the fabric of their lives reinforce the glimpses and sometimes comment on them’7 Jennings, who is now considered an art film-maker rather than a documentarist(r), inspired directors to make their own artistic decisions based on real life scenarios rather than traditional theatrical narratives and encouraged directors to consider both the aesthetics as well as the objective truths. By the 1950’s Britain was establishing its own cinematic style in response to groundbreaking developments happening simultaneously in France known as the ‘Nouvelle Vague.’ The name ‘British New Wave’ represented a contemporary group of British films produced between 1959 and 1963.4 Inspired by the work of Humphrey Jennings and lead by directors such as Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson8, film makers began to make the life of the everyday their key focus. The Free Cinema movement materialised in the 1950’s9 and represented a new wave of British theatre and literature embedded in the lives of the working classes, in particular, angry young men such as John Osborne’s 1956 realist play ‘Look Back in Anger’.7 The focus on experiences of ordinary people against a simplified, unadorned backdrop bore similarities to the New Wave film movement evolving at the same time. A burgeoning interest in the trials of the average person on the street became known cinematically as ‘British Social Realism’10. These films adapted techniques used by documentary makers and they continue to be recognisable within social realist films under the contemporary ‘art house’ genre. This environment allowed film-makers to avoid the influences of the Hollywood film industry and focus on developing their own individual artistic input. For the most part, British Social Realism aimed to shine a light on the difficulties facing the working classes, particularly in the North of England where consumerism had failed to erase the distinction of class identity (as seen in ‘Room at the Top’ 1959 and ‘A Kind of Loving’ 1962). The films were characterised by as a pseudo-documentary style of filming, using real people in real settings and recording events as they unfolded using, as said by Lauren N. Ede, “authentic settings as a defence against Hollywood, and Hollywood style, illusionism.”11 British cinema transformed from being an unrealistic, staged narrative based experience into social documentation that rejected escapism and instead choosing work that was in touch with reality and authenticity, giving the subjects a voice which in turn encouraged a more connected, emotional response from the audience. The directors developed a sense of working with what is in front of them. Real life locations were used instead of props and stages in studios. Roles were given to ordinary people with no experience or background in acting. Many future styles evolved from these original documentary film making techniques such as verbatim, minimal editing and shooting on location in order to re-enforce the ‘reality’ of the pieces.
In the 1960’s a new type of political Social Realism film emerged, directors such as Mike Leigh and Ken Loach developed a particular anti-aesthetic style of cinematography12. They were later to become pioneers of the modern Social Realism film genre addressing undramatic narratives around the family and domestic everyday life. Leigh and Loach worked towards an updated version of Social Realism, where the focus is on the small, everyday dramas that most audiences would be able to relate to. Mike Leigh’s films are embedded in the characters of the everyday rather than regarding life through any sort of aesthetic lens. ‘Life Is Sweet’ (1991) has gained cult following due to its authentic representation of British life and relationships. The film seeks to communicate a political message through the concentrated characteristics of an English working-class family. Leigh’s use of humor, music and caricature within the everyday genre distinguishes his work from more aesthetic directors such as Clio Barnard and Lynne Ramsay.
The 1990’s saw more apparent changes in British film culture. As Laurie N. Ede claims in their publication ‘British Film Design’: there was ‘something faintly revisionist, even postmodern, about some of the historical films that were made in the final decade of the twentieth century. In their sense of visual ‘bravura’ they seemed to reflect something of the spirit of the New British Cinema.”13 The fact that Ede acknowledged changes were occurring within Social Realism during the 1990s is significant and demonstrates the possibility that Social Realism was branching out into sub-genres. In 1997 The New Labour Government implemented tax breaks and provided lottery funding to encourage investment in film making.1313 Channel 4 developed ‘Film4’ a directors funding program that ‘develops and co-finances films and is known for working with the most distinctive and innovative talent in UK and international filmmaking.’14 More money was suddenly available to support directors – particularly those looking at British identity and this gave emerging directors and film artists a recognised platform to begin developing work, resulting in a rise in Social Realist exploratory films adapted from documentary techniques.
Social Realism within film evolved into a significant, contemporary cinematic genre through developments within the British Documentary Movement, the British New Wave, the Free Cinema Movement. Focusing primarily on the lives of the ordinary working classes, Social Realism became an idealistic creative environment for filmmakers and artists. Key influencers such as Humphrey Jennings and Lindsay Anderson helped to develop a ‘type’ of documentary production that rejected Hollywood in favour of real-life scenarios. In the 1990’s directors such as Mike Leigh and Ken Loach helped Social Realism to remain relevant to modern audiences and financial investment enabled artists and directors to be more flexible with material, both in terms of techniques, narratives and cinematography. Freedom to experiment meant film-making was entering a new era of creative expression.
A Conceptual and Technical Approach to The Everyday
The film director, Clio Barnard, is one of many cultural influencers favouring the everyday aesthetic in modern filmmaking. She utilises a background education in digital arts to her benefit in producing filmic representations of reality. Though not from a working-class background herself, she uses Social Realism and documentary techniques to depict themes associated with working class life in the north of England. Her work clearly exemplifies the potential development of a cross-over between Social Realism in film and a Fine Art visual aesthetic.
As a visual artist and film director, Barnard is one of the many benefiting from the film funding initiative sponsored by the National Lottery. Her film ‘The Arbor’ (2010) won Best New Documentary Director at the Tribeca Fil Awards.15 This film was made possible by the arts organisation ‘Artangel’, ’UK Film Council’ and ‘More4’16 and received most praise for her use of ‘verbatim theatre’: a technique which involves the use of recorded or transcribed audio from real people in the context of an interview which are then edited and dubbed by actors. As described by Will Hammond and Dan Steward, ‘verbatim’ is a piece that: ‘acknowledges, and often draws attention to, its roots in real life…actors take on the characters of the real individuals whose words are being used’17 Finessing such a distinctive and unusual technique is something which aids and distinguishes Barnard’s iconic style of filmmaking. It is the verbatim technique which is so central to the film and the re-enactment, digital imaging and lip-sync are inspired by a background in visual arts. The film tells a biographical account of Andrea Dunbar, a playwright famous for her works ‘The Arbor’ (1980) and ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’ (1982). The film describes the difficulties faced by Dunbar and her two daughters living on an estate in North Yorkshire. Barnard used first-hand dialogue from Lorraine and Lisa Dunbar but cast actors (Manjinder Virk and Christine Bottomley) to lip-sync to the audio recordings. By using experimental audio methods Barnard reinvents the conventional documentary genre. Working to compliment the combination of audio and visuals in her film Barnard focuses on an ordinary detail such as a windowsill as a non-distracting backdrop that concentrates individual elements. The film’s opening scene (seen in fig. 1) involves two dogs running free in a field to the sound of bird song followed by (fig. 2) a long, location shot of the estate, taken from the perspective of a field containing a horse. Barnard is using her visual art experience to describe a scene using minimal elements and a deliberate colour palette. Her unusual use of camera angle provides an alternative perspective on subjects such as observing events through the lens of the car mirror (fig. 3). These techniques remind the viewer that the film is not a direct representation but rather a perspective seen through the director’s eye.
In relation to perspectives, it is interesting to look at Barnard whilst considering the issues of representing the everyday from a class that is not your own; her background is more privileged.
As Barnard herself reports:
She was born and raised in Otley, Yorkshire, ‘her mum was a successful artist turned jazz singer and her dad was a university lecturer.’19 However, her background is not reflected in her work or choice of subject to study. The political themes found in her work mirror those of Mike Leigh and Lynne Ramsay. Her film’s protagonists are often from the working-class or disadvantaged backgrounds. In contradiction to this, she quotes in an article about her film ’The Selfish Giant’ that she doesn’t want her films to be entirely political;
This claim links back to the ‘stylised art-related aesthetics versus objective truth argument;’ by rejecting the explicit political content in her films, whilst also making them primarily about relationships between working-class characters, it is clear that Barnard’s motives lie in the idea of making something poetic, rather than political. A contradiction that can be resolved by redefining the combined characteristics associated with Social Realism and a clearly stylised Fine Art influence as a relatively recent aesthetic development. Some may argue, that it is a form of appropriation to make profit from a class that is not of your own, however there is little evidence to show that this has been acknowledged in Barnard’s case and instead she is praised for taking the authenticity of the subjects in her film to a level other directors have yet to succeed in.
Speaking of Barnard’s position within British film making and the historically disproportionate number of male British directors Beth Johnson claims in her essay ‘Art Cinema and The Arbor: Tape-recorded Testimony, Film Art and Feminism’:
The technical and artistic approach in her filmmaking can be explained by her early education. Her background in conceptual art later enabled her to stand out within the Social Realism field. Barnard originally attended Leeds College of Art20 and later studied electronic imaging in Dundee.21 Her artistic career progressed when she was picked out by curator, Tilda Swinton, to become part of the ‘Between Imagination and Reality’ exhibition.22 This endorsement from Swinton (a hugely influential and iconic individual in the film and artworld), further reinforces Barnard’s growing creative influence within film-making. Many of her films such as ‘Road Race’ and ‘Plotlands’ have been exhibited in major art galleries such as the Tate Modern, London and MoMA, New York.23
With a background in electronic imaging, Barnard uses techniques such as ‘verbatim’ to artistic advantage, whilst also encouraging authenticity through representations of the ‘real’. Her links to the modern art world through Tilda Swinton, Tate Britain and MoMa provide the connections between film-making (in particular the genre Social Realism) and visual art. As well as the clear differences between her work and other Social Realist directors such as Mike Leigh, Barnard’s work is defined by her desire to avoid the ‘explicitly political’ aspects of Social Realism while focusing on the visual poetry found in the everyday.
Poetry in the Reality
Lynne Ramsay is a director specializing in Social Realist film. Her work has been credited with influencing modern representations of everyday life and gained her international recognition for her artistic influence within the Social Realist genre. References to her own personal experiences are often presented as well as distinctive directorial decisions that range from colour choices to camera angles. Trained in photography, her use of lighting and focus are crucial to creating the atmosphere of a scene.
Born and raised in a working-class family in Glasgow24, Ramsay’s
upbringing has influenced her visual representations of the everyday. Her first two feature films Ratcatcher (1999) and Morvern Callar (2002) are both set in and around her home city. Kathleen McDermott who plays Lana, one of the main characters in Morvern Callar, was working as a hairdresser when she was scouted by Ramsay. The film had an empowering production budget of £6,000,00025 however she stated in a Guardian article that the majority of her budget is spent on location rather than big name actors because she ‘wanted continuity with the crew.’26. The use of non-actors in her films contributes to the ordinary, non-contrived aesthetics within her films; where directors in the 1950s were using non-actors due to small budgets, Ramsay is making a deliberate stylised choice. Alongside her personal connections to working-class everyday life, Ramsay’s films have a reputation for being visually poetic.
Her directorial eye is evident in films such as ‘Morven Callar’. The film received a positive reception and won the ‘Award of the Youth’ as well as the ‘C.I.C.A.E Award’ at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival27. The scenes within the film are dream-like, shifting from close-ups to unusual perspectives and varied lighting. The opening scene, as seen in fig. 4, involves a four minute, near silent shot where the audience observes the protagonist, Morvern, slowly reacting to the suicide of her partner on Christmas day. Mastering an unsettling stillness during the opening scene, the character’s face is lit up intermittently by a disconcerting red glow. The camera then abruptly expands to reveal the dead body lying motionless beside her. This high-impact, intimate opening demonstrates Ramsay’s preference for the magnification of small detail. Non-natural lighting is apparent throughout the film, such as in the opening scene the coloured lighting from the flashing tree lights combine both a sense of the surreal with the cheerfulness of a domestic Christmas. The depth of field (as seen in fig. 5) is constantly altered to bring detail in and out of focus, this process both guides the viewer while simultaneously reminding the viewer of Ramsay’s directorial input.
Morven Caller’s working-class themes demonstrate subtle political nuances; Patrick Nabarro gives an interesting review on Ramsay’s approach to film making in an article for ‘One Room with A View’:
Nabarro also acknowledges the similarities in artistic approach between Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard, putting Ramsay’s work firmly at the forefront.
Ramsay’s poetic style and visual techniques are evidence of her art-based education. Originally trained as a painter and photographer, (photography at Napier College in Edinburgh)28 she went on to attend the National Film and Television School (Beaconsfield)28 where she trained primarily as a cinematographer and later as a director. Her graduation film, Small Deaths (1996) was selected by the Cannes Film Festival29, winning the Prix de Jury (Short Film) as did her follow up short, Gasman (1998)30. These early films travelled widely and by the time her first feature Ratcatcher (1999) premiered in Un Certain Regard in 2000, Ramsay had secured her reputation as an important filmmaker. Her education, which led her directly to a career in film-making, is the key result of her strong visual style. She explains how her background as a photographic cinematographer influenced her work as a director in an interview for ‘Studiodaily’ by Steve Erickson in 2012 she states:
The art photographer Nan Goldin (as mentioned in ‘Documents of Contemporary Art: The Everyday’) is famous for documenting the real-life situations and characters around her – the exotic otherness of humanity as seen through Goldin’s lens. There are parallels between Goldin and Ramsay’s work, in the way the ordinary becomes extraordinary beneath their gaze. In an interview with Sean O’Hagan for the Guardian in 1999, Ramsay lists one of her inspirations as Nan Goldin, amongst a few other documental photographers rather than filmmakers32. These Fine Art links can be traced in the motives of both artists, as well as evidenced in their outcomes; as Nan Goldin claims:
Photographic representation of the everyday continues to be popular within modern art partly because access to the quotidian is free for everyone to record and widespread coverage ensures the aesthetics associated with the everyday remain relevant and popular. Ramsay’s success in film-making has developed to include high-budget Hollywood films but her interest in finding the ‘unusual’ within the ordinary persists. Lynne Ramsay also works closely with Tilda Swinton “Lynne is making films in her head all the time. She is one of those rare directors who creates the kind of films that just would not be there if she didn’t make them.”34 Interconnections between Ramsay, Barnard and Swinton underline the existing collaborative entanglements between visual artists and film making as evidenced within the current Social Realism film genre.
Ramsay’s working-class background and art-school education have both impacted on the style and themes that she addresses in her films. Her skill in maximizing the peripheral visual poetry emphasizes her connection to artists and photographers such as Nan Goldin and Tilda Swinton. Ramsay stretches our understanding of Social Realism, taking the details of an event and placing them within the parameters of our own lives – making them relevant, making them relatable, making us notice them.
A Modern Definition of ‘Everyday’ Aesthetics
‘The everyday’ means many different things in many different contexts. However, it gains particular significance when placed in the context of film and art. In general, Social Realism within film has been historically linked to political themes although the emerging Fine Art influence, evidenced by the work of Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard, has become a significant aesthetic development. The current cultural appetite for everyday aesthetics generates a potential dichotomy: is this new type of aesthetic Social Realism romanticizing the realities of working-class life?
Samantha Lay, in her publication ‘British Social Realism: From Documentary to Brit Grit’ suggests that,
Lay is referring to the underlying issues concerning the way realism is currently represented and makes the point that perhaps representations of Social Realism have drifted so far away from the original that a new identification within the genre is proposed.
Examining Stephen Johnstone’s publication ‘Documents of Contemporary Art: The Everyday,’ (2008) the text explores the presence of the everyday in contemporary art since 1945, in it he also traces its lineage back to the work of the Surrealists. Johnstone claims that working with the everyday is working with what is overlooked in the world. He sets up an argument for the use of the everyday within art – considering its affect as an emollient, as a way of bringing society together or a platform for division and exploitation.36
If looked at in philosophical terms, there are many interpretations of what defines the ‘everyday’ that remain resistant to stylization. Dan Ratiu, a philosopher and author of ‘Remapping the Realm of Aesthetics’ defines the everyday as:
When stripped down to its core principles, without film or art associations, the everyday is utilitarian, repetitive and generally un-noticed, only when it is considered in the context of contemporary Social Realism does it acquire its associations to stylised aesthetics. This emphasises the difference between ‘the everyday’ and the notion of the working-class. The definition provided by Ratiu can be applied to everyone’s daily regime, across all classes and cultures, however ‘the everyday’ and the working-class are two separate elements that tend to be united as one within the term Social Realism. As a consequence, it is easy to relate and be inspired by the aesthetics, whichever cultural or financial position the audience may come from.
There is no doubt that interest in the
As a result of The New British Wave and Social Realism, Britain’s representation of everyday aesthetics became inextricably linked to modern art through directors such as Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard, more mainstream films Art and film movements are interwoven. The definitions regarding the aesthetics of ‘the everyday’ have evolved to become poetic with the encouragement of contemporary art and Social Realism. The everyday represented by Social Realism is linked to working-class life therefor when it is put under the influence of poetic stylistic choices it can become the subject of ‘romanticisation’, and in some cases, appropriation of a class due to it becoming appealing in the visual world. There are signs of art and film emerging in the 1990s, by acknowledging this, as well as the techniques adapted by Clio Barnard and Lynne Ramsay, there is a sub-genre of Social Realism that requires renaming to ‘Expressive Social Realism’ or ‘Expressive Realism’ for those whose films have equal amount to do with stylised art-related aesthetics as they do to an objective truth.
Britain’s cultural film climate set up an environment where directors or creatives in the 1990’s and beyond were able to share their own personal attempt at representing the everyday in film with flexibility in creative direction. Funding from ‘Film4’ and the National lottery meant that there was more access to funds for films, addressing the subject of the ‘real’ triggered emotional and relatable works for audiences. This environment of adapted techniques from documentary, a rejection of Hollywood and a light to be shown of the true hardships faced by the working class. The specific combination of a rejection of Hollywood, smaller budgets and a desire to shine a light on the realities of life for the working classes. Social realism has enabled artists/directors to be flexible with material, both in terms of techniques, narratives and cinematography. Artistic decisions are prioritised over spectacle or big budgets and directors have more control/fluidity and to take risks. Social Realism by the 1990s had become the ideal creative environment for Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard to launch their careers. Freedom to experiment meant film-making was entering a new era of creative expression united by the opportunities offered by the visual poetry of film-making. Barnard had enjoyed an in-depth education in multi-media art which enabled her to develop her distinctive style of film-making later on in her career. Ramsay’s working-class upbringing provided her with the insight to produce sensitive and truthful portrayals of the everyday which were further enhanced by her art and photography academic background.
Clio Barnard attempts to represent the beauty in the everyday by a conceptual and technical approach. With her background in education involving electronic imaging she uses techniques such as ‘vertabrim’ at an artistic advantage, whilst also encouraging authenticity with respresentations of the ‘reality’. Her links to the modern art world through Tilda Swinton, Tate Britain and MoMa state the obvious connections between film-making (in particular the genre Social Realism) and visual art. As well as the clear differences to traditional social realist directors such as Mike Leigh, Barnard is defined by her desire to not necessarily make her films ‘explicitly political’ but more the poetic, beauty in the everyday. Something that could be considered a contradiction when making work concerning the life of working class from a non-working-class perspective. In relation to what is considered exploitative and what is considered documentary it is useful to consider, as Steve Neale quotes in his 1981 article ‘Art Cinema as Institution’, by whom a film is funded, directed and distributed, where it is exhibited, how it is received and what it aims to do.
The poetic approach used by Lynne Ramsay in her work can be concluded as part of her upbringing and education in photography. She addresses the beauty in the everyday through the use of lighting, sound and filming techniques, as seen in the first 4 soundless mintues of Movern Callar. As a result, Ramsay finds an area in between dream and reality, which in turn sacrifices some of the ‘realness’ to the representation of the everyday however develop a strong aesthetic that can be associated to quotidian life and appreciated in a new light. Her links to the likes of Nan Goldin further emphasize the connecting links to those making aesthetic social realism films and art.
The definition of the ‘everyday’ as depicted in the films of Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard, presents daily life from a working-class perspective. Barnard’s preoccupation with Northern England is evident in The Arbor which presents a character facing the consequences of poverty or social injustice and Lynne Ramsay covers working class protagonists from Scotland in Ratcatcher and Movern Callar. The strong links between Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard enable their work to push forward the poetic social realist style they specialise in to the front.
‘Expressive Social Realism’ would be a term more applicable to the works of Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard, whose work holds such strong stylised content that it translates the everyday into an aesthetic.
The representations of the everyday present in this essay may aspire to directness and immersion however there are consequences to creative/personal input and sacrifices to be made on authenticity (more poetry = takes away from direct reality) such as two dogs running through in and out of focus grass to the sound of birds singing (opening scene from Clio Barnard’s ‘The Arbor’) or 12 minutes soundless minutes of flashing christmas lights and in and out of focus body shots (opening scene from (scene from Lynne Ramsays’ ‘Movern Callar’)
The definitions regarding the aesthetics of ‘the everyday’ have evolved to become poetic with the encouragement of contemporary art and Social Realism. The everyday represented by Social Realism is linked to working-class life therefor when it is put under the influence of poetic stylistic choices it can become the subject of romantisisation, and in some cases, appropriation of a class due to it becoming appealing in the visual world. There are signs of art and film emerging in the 1990s, by acknowledging this, as well as the techniques adapted by Clio Barnard and Lynne Ramsay, there is a sub-genre of Social Realism that requires renaming as ‘x’ for those whose films have equal amount to do with stylised art-related aesthetics as they do to an ‘objective truth’(repetition)
...(download the rest of the essay above)