Rams (Cert 15) Cast. Charlotte Bøving as Katrin, Jon Benonysson as Runólfur, Gunnar Jónsson as Grímur, Þorleifur Einarsson as Sindri, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson as Bjarni. Cert. 15. Iceland/Danish Production, Duration 1hr 32mins. Budget $1.75m. Director and Writer, Grimur Hakonarson.
Gummi (Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Júlíusson)
The terrain of Iceland is sculpted by ice unsurprisingly. So Northern it also is a bleak landscape. Here in Ram we see the sculpted mountains sacrificed and uninhabitable except by hardy sheep. The unsurprisingly are central to the story having here been bred to cope with these hostile conditions. The film will show you the winter as well as the near constant daylight of the more hospitable periods when the locals can meet and share their stories, take part in completions and socialise as only rural communities long settled can invest in themselves and their children.
For their rural life there is an accepted harshness which collects their natural ancient traditions and provides a continuity not found in cities which they eschew. They also abstain from authority and assist other in times of trouble. They are separated by a large span bridge in their remote world. Across a wide river they can create their own managed existence.
Meet the family
To the story of this settlement the writer takes as a familial motif two bachelor brothers separated by one wire fence and seperated by their hostility or rather festered soreness of an old disconnection from forty years ago when a decision affecting them both was taken. Theirs is a world of rearing rare sheep whose dna presents them with a living and is essential to the survival of the conmmunity.
Gummi —————————| Kiddi ——–|
Two brothers who share part of the valley and have both prize Rams and Sheep of ancient and cherished value are challenged when one of their stock, Kiddi’s is struck by a lethal disease. They have to confront this by shedding past conflicts but struggle to amid a despairing close knit community and for their wider survival of income for the inhabitants of this otherwise enriched environment. It is is fixed in its ways and traditions serving them assuredly until now. Many consider abandoning the area to its fate, this is a problem which local vet, Katrin, spells out in no uncertain terms. Survival means not quarantine but more drastic measures. So the story is set.
I have considered the food and the adulteration of the means of supply as well as our, in the West, tendency to consume too much meat, a habit from feudal times and how evident it is the Chinese; pre-revolution, cultivation of all manner of foods were mainly plant based with little in the way of seafood. Nevertheless their consumption, still of Kori and nutrient enriched seaweeds is a massive part of even internal parts of China. The scale of harvesting was and hopefully continues to be managed at sustainable levels, though population levels are again surging forward. Iceland must also have diversity in its diet and our two brothers have in a sub-component of the film as bachelor basic cooking ideas. This has a minor adjustment by the more adjustable brother when things change. He accepts, only in part that things change and makes a new stab at the reality presented. Spot the changes!
Tension is formidable in parts of this saddest of tales. It is not over played but paced to take in the beauty of the locality and emphasis how different the people’s lives are from the cosmopolitan, city lives familiar, most probably for a lot of the offspring who have left this landscape for education and never returned. It is a tale of an existence struggling to manage and its traditional animal husbandry is put aside by a remote bureau of food safety and agricultural methods altered not for the best locally but for more external dealings.
Both brothers first tackle the difficulties in different ways and the authorities intervene to cause even more problems.
They need to be prised together to secure the breed from extinction and to save their way of life. It is as twisted as a Rams horn, this story.
In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two estranged brothers must come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep.
The surprise winner of Un Certain Regard at last year’s Cannes, this desolately beautiful film follows Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), brothers who live on neighbouring sheep farms but haven’t spoken to each other for forty years. Then disease threatens their beloved rams – and the brothers are forced to communicate once again. Full of wry, deliciously mordant humour, Rams is a real treat.
This is a a very straightforward tale told wit attention and sincerity which is at times bleakly funny in a peculiar conscious sort of way. Sympathy obviously lured the ward and it is a tremendous depiction of the nature of the place and the characters believable in their resolve. About fourteen characters shape in and dozens of extras. No animals were harmed etc. Nor did they act very well. They have only one look even when having sex. The curvature of their horns, male and female are a weapon not used except by one bored ram. We should have been forewarned about sheep sex and the (separate) expanses of male nudity. The bros are not afraid of fat from the frying pan cooking. They are also similar but with different mindsets. That is a core tension which is an entanglement which nearly destroys both. It is a fairly ordinary telling of a realistic story and is not a bundle of laughs, more salutary tale. It was worth seeing and will satisfy curiosity about, rural Iceland, the retention of folklore and the visual night and day spectacular wilderness of the place.
9 February 2016
On from 12 Feb — 18 February 2016
Queens Film Theatre Belfast