Getting a small UK release in February 2016, Lee takes a look at Icelandic movie Rams.
Somewhere between folk tale, in which the familiar meets the unfamiliar, and a fairy tale, in which ambiguity in storytelling takes centre stage; Rams is an Icelandic film that gives us all that open ground for interpretation we film-loving types love so much.
The story follows two brothers, each locally famous for rearing a long lineage of great sheep, and their relationship with the sheep, the locals, each other and the external factors that inevitably ties them all together. Nothing too complex.
On face-value, it’s a story of sibling rivalry set against a very idyllic lifestyle that looks at family togetherness with a black sense of humour that plays hard on the absurd and the mundane. Organ swells keeps the piece feeling a little dreary throughout, and the gorgeous sparseness of the Icelandic ranges play deeply into the loneliness of the farmers and their desperation as the story presses forward.
The undertones are a playground for those who like to read a little more into their stories. Aided by a pitch-perfect ending, the movie plays with notions of life and death on a greater level than initially teased by the simple story. An exploration of nihilism is certainly present, and ponderings on lineage, duty, utilitarianism, reconciliation and maybe even hints of spiritualism and individualism; each individual’s read might differ from the next, but the important thing is there is enough in the screenplay and imagery to give viewers the opportunity and space to make of it what they will and feel supported in that reading.
It’s a demure tale with a touch of reckless optimism involved, and thankfully a huge dose of humanity to keep everyone invested. It’s certainly not entirely inclusive with its off-beat tone and sense of humour, but there’s definitely great filmmaking on show here to reward those who give the movie a chance.
Slight criticism: the resolve could feel a little more earned in the context of the movie. Where the pieces end up is great and the intention is there, but pacing and a few more connecting scenes could have really driven this home.
Additional positive: it’s the perfect length; fairly short. Newcomers to indie cinema or foreign film won’t have to worry about wasting too much of their lives, but it really is the kind of enriching experience that makes film such an exciting medium for storytelling. Immensely memorable.