Grímur Hákonarson’s Icelandic film Rams is a darkly comic and at times heartbreaking tale about sheep. The film tells of two feuding brothers, Gummi and Kiddi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson), living in the isolated Icelandic Valleys. They are bitterly competitive when it comes to the local best ram prize, however must put their grudges aside when a threat of scrapie disease puts both their livestock at risk of a cull.
Although the title and plot may seem perhaps understated, Rams has a refreshing depth to it that conveys the emotion of the brothers even through the deadpan sensibility of the film. Whilst there is a risk of seeming uninteresting and even depressing to watch when using a minimalist score, long takes of expansive grey and blue sceneries and deadpan dialogue, Hákonarson employs this aesthetic to a brilliant effect. We are provided with a genuine tension, emotional depth from the compelling acting talent and a real sense of these brothers’ livelihoods on the line when contrasted with the sublime yet secluded scenes of bleak moors.
Having won the ‘Un Certain Regard’ Prize at Cannes Film Festival 2015, it is a surprise that Rams was snubbed for an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The film is strangely captivating both visually and emotionally without appealing to the audience with likeable characters or a vibrant tone. It sits in this liminal space between tragic and touchingly humanistic, and absurdly deadpan. In a sense, the film does not sentimentalise the brothers’ way of life yet still manages to capture our emotional investment and interest. Rams is highly intelligent, and highly enjoyable.
RAMS is in UK cinemas now, and will be screening at Chapter Arts Centre cinema, Cardiff, 12 – 17 FEBRUARY