Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Rams

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Reviews - Rams


Reviewed By John Porter

The Sunday evening audience at the Alhambra was treated to a tiny gem of Icelandic tragicomedy with Hrútar/Rams (2015, Grímur Hákonarson). The story opens in a remote Northern valley as aged farmer Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjónsson) finds a sick sheep on the other side of his fence. With his grey beard mingling alongside the wool, he carries the animal to the farmhouse next to his own, deposits it inside the front door and walks off. The equally gnarled owner Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) comes swearing to the porch only to see Gummi's figure walking away. Without stopping, turning, or saying a word, Gummi slowly raises his arm to point at the field where he found the creature. The men are brothers and have not spoken in forty years.

As a picture of the feud between them is built, so is an impression of the community and landscape of the place. The horizon lines of the bleak Icelandic highlands often stretch endlessly atop the frame, and a deadpan sense of humour is drawn out of the visuals through Hákonarson's tendency to photograph his subjects straight on. This wry simplicity of style mirrors the no-nonsense attitude of the farmers, and the performances of the two leads are effortlessly believable, perfectly fitting the underplayed nature of the piece. Comedy emerges from the most ordinary of circumstances yet never seems forced or played solely for laughs, and the ease with which the movie pulls us into both the narrative and the characters is testament to this honesty. Hákonarson treats the world as it is, exposing the wit and sadness that rests just below the surface.

When scrapie disease is found in Kiddi's prize ram, the stock of the entire valley has to be slaughtered, leaving an ancient livelihood and the last of that line of sheep under threat. Drawing parallels between the brothers' personal situation and the precariousness of their way of life, their battle comes to a head in the snows of winter for a genuinely touching finale. At only 90 minutes the movie never feels heavy despite the intense subject matter, and is totally immersive in a beautiful rendering of a world that appears both grand and intimate, heartbreaking and life-affirming.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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