Winner of Cannes' prestigious 'Un Certain Regard' award and Iceland's submission for the 2016 Oscars, the film is directed by Grímur Hákonarson and incorporates his typically dry, black humour with a very human sense of pathos.
The film follows two elderly brothers, Gummi and Kiddi, who tend to their sheep in near silence, not having spoken to one another for over four decades. The two have an apparently irreparable rift, a rivalry that is apparent from the off-set when Kiddi garners the prize for best Ram and the small village's annual awards ceremony, to Gummi's outrage.
When Gummi discovers that Kiddi's prize Ram has a case of scrapie, an infectious and untreatable illness, he alerts the village and the pair's rivalry reaches levels of intensity to rival Cain and Abel. Both of their flocks must be put down, essentially destroying hundreds of years of their family's ancient heritage, and the two attempt to deal with the tragedy in very different ways: Kiddi taking to self-destruction as Gummi hatches his own, ill-thought plan.
Rife with stunning shots of natural beauty, and the rugged, hairy men grow to resemble their flocks of sheep as they stare out into the cold of the distant mountains. The landscape echoes their intense isolation and their quiet acceptance of lives of solitude. Though little is said by either, the emotion behind the brothers' eyes is palpable, there is meaning in every glance. There is something engrossing in watching the slow and considered way they go about their daily affairs.
The value placed on the ancient heritage combined with the beauty of the landscape makes Hákonarson's film an immensely poignant experience: an ode to Iceland and its ancient customs, there's something biblical in Rams' reverence for the ancient trade – and the power of the natural elements. An unlikely subject to command a screen for two hours, the bristly characters slowly manage to work their way under the audience's skin: we slowly come see how similar they are, after all, in the pride they have over their livelihood – and their desperation to save the doomed livestock.
At times comic, distressing and deeply moving, this is an original and utterly understated work from Hákonarson that lingers in the mind long after the credits roll. Whether Rams will find an audience in UK cinemas remains to be seen, but it's definitely a worthy offering from Iceland for this year's Academy Awards.
|What||'Rams' film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
05 Feb 16 – 05 Apr 16, Times vary depending on cinema
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|