Rams (Sundance Review)
Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes this year, Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams starts out as a strange comedy about sheep farming before gradually turning into a heartwarming tale of two estranged brothers attempting to make peace with their past. Despite living right next to each other for 40 years, brothers Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) barely interact. But that changes when a devastating degenerative disease infects sheep across the community, forcing the brothers to work together to protect their beloved sheep.
Set in a remote Icelandic farming valley featuring picturesque landscapes, Rams combines isolated visuals with a moody musical score to create a haunting, contemplative atmosphere. Doom lurks around every corner in this film, but Hákonarson manages to insert enough tender moments to balance the otherwise melancholy vibe. Watching the farmers kill off their stock in order to eradicate the disease is heartbreaking, but with tragedy comes hospitality. The situation is an opportune time for the brothers to reconcile their differences to save their flock and salvage their relationship. While it’s not overwhelmingly clear why these two brothers haven’t gotten along over all these years, Hákonarson figures it’s less important than watching them set aside their conflicts.
It’s impossible to overlook the striking cinematography found in Rams. Even with a simplistic, and sometimes slow-moving storyline, the film remains engaging due to its strong visuals and absurd comedy. Icelandic filmmakers have recently found their own quirky niche, producing oddball narratives containing depressing dark humor set against gorgeous rural backdrops. Rams would make a great double feature with last year’s Icelandic head-scratcher (which also involved animals) Of Horses and Men.