Winner of the ‘Un Certain Regard Award’ at last year’s Cannes festival, Rams is one of the strangest films I’ve seen in quite some time.
Hailing from Iceland, the story could be best summed up as one of sibling rivalry and sheep. Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson play two brothers, Gummi and Kiddi, who have hardly spoken in forty-years, despite living on the same plot of land.
Both brothers are sheep farmers, and have more of a relationship with their livestock than they do each other. It’s their rivalry that leads Gummi, the seemingly more innocent out of the brothers, to discover an outbreak of scrapie. A degenerative disease that affects the nervous system of sheep and goats, Gummi’s discovery leads to the destruction of the entire valley’s livestock, but brings he and his brother together in the process.
The first thing that should be said for Rams, is that the film’s writer and director, Grímur Hákonarson, manages to take sheep farming, something which you’d be forgiven for thinking dull and dreary, and turn it into something cinematic, something absorbing and something with great amounts of visual symbolism and thematic depth.
It’s a peculiar mystery of a film, sometimes frustratingly so, which holds its cards close to its chest until it is ready to reveal them. There are twists and turns you won’t see coming, as the story unfolds and begins to change your perception of the characters and their motives; yet this is never done in an overly dramatic way. Details of the brother’s relationship are hinted toward and slowly drawn out through quiet conversation which fits in perfectly with the film’s almost-silent feel to it.
There are large portions of the picture that are absent of dialogue altogether, with a particular focus on actions and imagery, as opposed to dialogue. The bleak location of the brothers’ secluded Icelandic land speaks volumes, the fact one of the brothers has a black sheep hints at a fractured familial relationship, and the film’s stunning final few moments brings things to a satisfying resolution without hardly saying a word.
Whilst the enigmatic nature of the film may prove frustrating for some, its tone is even more difficult to pin down. First and foremost Rams is undoubtedly a drama that is filled with tragedy, but there are also moments of undeniable comedy splashed throughout. The problem is that the humour of the picture is so deadpan that it might be missed on occasion by less attentive audience members, but I can assure you that is there – a hospital trip in a digger being the main laugh-out-loud moment.
Rams is the type of film that is all the more rewarding depending on how much your willing to put into it. It isn’t the easiest thing to watch, and Its oddities and mysteries may be enough to put you off, but, if you’re willing to stick with it you’ll find great visuals, terrific performances and bone dry comedy.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com