Rams: Film Review
Cast: Sigurour Sigurjonsson, Theodo Juliusson, Charlotte Boving
Director: Grimur Hakonarson
Bucolic and fraternal, Scandi-drama Rams is a look at the devastation a blight can cause both in a relationship and also in a farming community.
Brothers Kiddi and Gummi (bearded grizzled types Sigurjonsson and Juliusson) live side by side and have done for years. But they don't talk, victims of a fall-out never explored but oft mentioned. Tensions are further exacerbated when Kiddi's rams beat Gummi's in a competition, sealing the deal and the drift between the pair.
However, when Gummi finds signs of fatal degenerative disease scrapie in Kiddi's flock, things boil over as the flocks in the valley have to be slaughtered to protect the spread. But Kiddi believes it's Gummi's jealousy that has hit the limit over their flock's lineage, even though vets back Gummi up.
So, with the valley's livelihood and the community ripped asunder by the cull, the battle lines are drawn.
Quietly unassuming and sensibly executed, Rams' power lies in the ramifications of actions, as well as the exploration of the bleakly wry humour of two scrapping for generations. Hakonarson uses the landscapes and bleak conditions to maximum effect - soon after the cull, winter arrives, a literal freezing of relationships between the brothers extrapolated on a larger canvas.
Where it's perhaps less successful is in the wider community. The consequences of a disease like scrapie (much like its UK equivalent BSE or Foot and Mouth disease) are that people buckle under the pressure and bow to darker moments, but Hakonarson is not interested in anyone outside of the central duo, whom he focusses on yet never fully explores their reasons for the rift. It's a frustration among the sedentary pace, and while it's understandable that there's no place for plot-convenient exposition, it's a factor that proves you to feel emotionally aloof and ultimately irritated by the conclusion, the emotional weight of which is somewhat lost.
There is a mournful sadness in Rams that could be mistaken by some for darker comedy, but it's the isolation within that proves to be Rams' strength and the ambiguity of other parts of it that proves to be its weakness.