Film review: RAMS, from ‘Built For Speed’

Rams takes us into the cutthroat world of Icelandic sheep farming as it explores the lifelong enmity between two sheep farming brothers.

The two brothers, Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) have not spoken for 40 years but despite their (unexplained) feud, live in neighbouring properties. When Kiddi edges out Gummi in what seems to be a ram beauty contest, the embittered Gummi searches for a way to destroy his brother. The opportunity arrives when Gummi discovers that Kiddi’s sheep have a disease called Scarpie. Unfortunately, this means every sheep in the region including Gummi’s will have to be destroyed. Gummi, however, doesn’t intend to comply with the sheep cull.

This is a moody tale of fraternal conflict and self-destructive jealousy. Like many a Scandinavian film Rams mixes quirky humour and existential misery although the emphasis is on the misery here with morose, taciturn characters and imposing windswept landscapes filling the screen. The film’s grim tone is also enhanced by a brooding score from Atli Örvarsson.

With minimal dialogue much of the story is told through the actions and anguished expressions of its leads. Both Sigurjónsson and Júlíusson are excellent at quietly but powerfully conveying the brothers’ destructive pride, desperation, burning jealousy as well as their rigorous work ethic. There is a slight problem in that the woolly-bearded males resemble each other and their sheep, so it’s occasionally hard to know who or what we’re looking at.

Rams is a slow-moving but hypnotic piece of minimalist film-making that resonates with an archetypal Cain and Abel story of brotherly conflict.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Grímur Hákonarson.

Release date: 7th April 2016.

Running time: 93 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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