The Big Issue : Edition 570
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 7–20 SEP 2018 33 man, but he doesn’t get the girl,” she says. “There’s no big denouement, everything’s a bit topsy-turvy.” In You Were Never Really Here – as in each of Ramsay’s four features – her characters are stained by sadness and anger, linked to trauma. Ramsay’s Joe is a broken man trying to right the wrongs of the world, one atrocity at a time. With a thick, raggedy beard and dead- inside eyes, he appears as shattered as his country. “Some people like the catharsis of something uber-violent, but this is the antithesis – he’s not particularly cool, he looks like a bum, he’s got a belly, he doesn’t have a six-pack. But he’s such an engaging character,” she says. In addition to her own research, she sought a greater understanding of trauma through her sister, an undercover cop. “Things like noises can bring up this stuff,” Ramsay explains. “Trying to do that justice – rather than just doing the ‘here’s what happened in the past’ backstory – is much more emotional.” She brings this emotion to life, communicating fear and fury through evocative, elliptical and sometimes gory imagery, and a pulsing, grief-filled score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Taking inspiration in the early stages from music, and developing ideas around images rather than plot, she openly admits her approach to filmmaking is hardly traditional. But as she soon discovered, neither was Phoenix’s, making him a perfect collaborator. “[He was] always searching, always pushing himself above and beyond what’s there, even if what’s there is great,” she says. “It was a bit like meeting a brother from another mother. It was a strange thing: ‘Oh my god, he works in the same way I do.’” Ultimately, You Were Never Really Here is as much a sophisticated character study as it is an intoxicating – and at times deeply disturbing – Taxi Driver-esque tale about Manhattan’s mean streets. Moving from what she describes as “a very quiet village with no cars” to New York City in order to make the film gave Ramsay personal insight into the experience of shock. “When I got to New York, it was sirens everywhere; when you closed your eyes, it sounded like hell or war,” she explains. Ramsay recalls sitting in her garden one evening and hearing a sudden burst of explosions. Disorientated, she remembered it was the Fourth of July celebrations: “I recorded it and gave it to Joaquin and said, ‘That’s what you hear in your brain every day... It’s like your head is full of broken shards of glass that poke through now and again’, and he really got that.” Ramsay and Phoenix shared a desire to “get inside the head of a character”, and it’s this intense focus upon characters’ internal lives that makes this story so harrowing. “You see a lot of spectacle films like superhero films with big set pieces, but it’s extraordinary what you can do with so little,” she says. And it was New York that brought the excitement as soon as they began shooting. “It was horrific intense heat, people were passing out – there’s real grime and sweat in the movie.” And it’s this intensity that lights up the screen. “There was real excitement among the crew, and it re-energised me, too.” by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (@suspirialex) » You Were Never Really Here is in cinemas now. “ When I got to New York, it was sirens everywhere; when you closed your eyes, it sounded like hell or war.” – DIRECTOR LYNNE RAMSAY — JOAQUIN PHOENIX RESCUES CHILDREN FROM SEX TRAFFICKING IN YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE.