In Joe Pettit's unsettling Rattle, the familiar landscape of a suburban summer plays host to an exploration of the psychosexual anxieties of four teenagers. Playing with distortions in vision and temporality, the film reveals little by way of plot, but is generous in conjuring an atmosphere of paranoia, and complemented by an evocative score.
The action is split between the home of a young girl named Ellie, and a field near the woods, where three boys have set up a tent in expectation of a party. When Ellie arrives at the scene, two of the boys have already disappeared into the forest. The film bristles with the mention of a sexual assault that is remembered but not seen, and a series of bizarre events materialise from the sour taste left by the crime. Nodding undoubtedly to the gaps that trauma leaves in the memory, the dullness of suburbia is shot through with a deathlike quality. Thoughtful camera angles give some scenes a sense of detachment through which we question their relation to the wider film, such as one instance in which Ellie, passed out in her bedroom from a high, could be mistaken for a corpse. Taking on a life and significance of their own, these shots elevate reality to something anxious and dreamlike. At times, however, they trouble an understanding of the film to a difficult degree.
Like Claire Oakley's caravan-park psychodrama Make Up [UK, 2019] and to a certain extent Rose Glass' horror Saint Maud [UK, 2019], Rattle deploys the phenomenology of the mundane experiences of British youth – in this case field parties, sneaking out of parents' houses, and all-too-fleeting highs – to explore repressed and aggressive sexual desires that underlie efforts to fit in with peers, and to society. Suppressed by the characters, these feelings find expression in the intensity of the environment – in the full summer trees that seem too loud and too close, in the long grass sticky with cider and dew, and the harsh lighting that paints the world in the washed-out colours of a hangover. While all three of these films could be charged with using a sense of the uncanny as a crutch, Rattle does succeed in casting a rare and sensitive eye on a world that for many is simply ordinary, illuminating its strangeness from within.
'Rattle' is available to watch now on FLTV.