Now out on Blu-ray via Cohen Media Group, Rams is an Icelandic film that grabs you from the opening shot and refuses to let go. The film, however, doesn’t seduce with quick cutting and flashy action sequences, as the story of two brothers living on a secluded Iceland property may actually seem, upon first blush, as boring.
Even in their silences, sibings Gummi (Sigurdur Sugrjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Julísson) are always intriguing to watch and observe, as the mystery behind their fractured relationship continues to build right until the narrative’s final chapter. For some reason, the pair, although they live in different houses on the same piece of land, haven’t spoken to one another in over 40 years, and most of their communication is aided by messages delivered to each other by Kiddi’s loyal dog.
They both raise sheep, and one of Gummi’s rams wins the town’s annual best in show competition, leaving a jealous Kiddi understandably depressed. While inspecting the winning, Kiddi discovers the animal has scrapie, an incurable and communicable disease which attacks the sheep’s brain and spinal cord.
With the scrapie discovery, farmers around the town are ordered to kill their sheep and eventually raise a new flock which in effect will cripple their livelihood for the next couple of years. Faced with killing animals who in many ways are their sole form of companionship, the brothers must find a way through their respective struggles.
Director/writer Grímur Hákonarson based his screenplay on a true story, and along with growing up in rural Iceland, he also worked on a sheep farm as a teenager. The filmmaker’s lived-in experience is infused all throughout the methodical, contemplative pacing of Rams, as the solitary lifestyle of the brothers are also heightened by the beautiful yet ultimately desolate surroundings that envelop their environment. For urban dwellers looking for a picture postcard filled with ice capped mountains and eye catching landscapes, Rams has that in spades.
Though the 93-minute film is billed as a dark comedy, Hákonarson’s tale is mainly rooted in drama that surfaces from real life struggles and tragedies. The film’s closing moments, which is the director’s emotional, cinematic aria, is definitely a showy, standout moment that organically fits into the story’s structure. Lesser storytellers would have gone off the rails and punctuate the story with broader comedy or a few stylistic bells and whistles, but the director thankfully keeps the cards close to his vest (until the story’s denouement).
Honored last year with the Un Certain Regard Award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Rams is a cinematic tale of pure meditative and heartbreaking wonder, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Hollywood takes notice of his talents.
Special features on the Blu-ray include an interview with Grímur Hákonarson, the 22-minute short Wrestling (directed by Hákonarson), and the theatrical trailer.