Directed by Grímur Hákonarson
Written by Grímur Hákonarson
This film played at a Scandinavian film festival last year and I was angry that I missed it, as I had read high praise from seemingly every critic. I kept it on my radar, and it finally hit our screens not long ago. I even persuaded a friend to come along, despite the simple plot that would surely put off a lot of people. This has also been labelled a comedy, which just is not true, and led my friend astray. He was expecting a bucket of laughs, and while there are a few understated funny moments, they are few and far between. This is a drama, and despite the short running time and simple story, it manages to be incredibly moving on many levels, while looking spectacular thanks to the incredible landscape of Iceland.
Two brothers, Gummi and Kiddi, live next to each other, sharing a prized stock of sheep and rams. Despite living next to each other and being siblings, the two haven’t spoken for 40 years. We never find out why, which I thought was a good move on the director’s part, as it allows us to focus on what is happening in the present. We soon learn the extent that these two brothers will go to just to avoid speaking to each other; early in the film a local competition is held, judging the rams of each local farmer. Despite finishing first and second, split by only half a point, the two don’t acknowledge each others’ presence in any way, instead going back to their table of friends. After the competition, Gummi, the main character of the film, decides that the winner of the competition, his brother’s prized ram, was showing signs of an infectious disease known as scrapies. At first it seems that Gummi is a sore loser, acting in a passive-aggressive way towards his brother. But the disease is confirmed, and all the farmers in the area are ordered to cull their entire herd.
While extremely hesitant at first, this forces the two brothers to actually interact with each other, and each time they do, it is memorable. Having not spoken to each other for so long, we see how hard it is for both men to start any sort of dialogue. Being forced to cull their prized herd, it soon becomes obvious just how much these farmers love their sheep. While losing them will affect both men’s lives economically, the film doesn’t firmly establish this, instead focusing on the love these farmers have for their sheep. I was reminded more than once of the strong bond I have with my dog, such is the power of this film. Another aspect that really helped is the extremely expressive face of Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), who is analysed closely in many scenes. His face says so much, words are often not needed.
The final act capitalises on the strained relationship of the two brothers, culminating in a final scene that almost had me in tears. I said to my friend when it finished, “I never thought I would be so moved by a film about sheep”, but he unfortunately had been looking for comedy and didn’t find much, and was therefore disappointed. A ‘marvel of deadpan comedy’ this is not; I’m not sure how anyone could come to such a conclusion. Rams is a stirring drama that deals with unconditional love, whether it be for a sibling or a farmer’s sheep, with a few funny moments that I could count on one hand. After it finished I found myself thinking what could possibly happen for me to not speak to my sister for 40 years, and I came up empty. Regardless of its simplicity, it is an immediately intriguing premise that provides the backbone for one of the most moving films I have ever seen.
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