Opening 6 Jan 2022
Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson’s debut film, separated into three-parts, could be compared to the protagonist couple’s discovery in their sheep barn, that is the crux of Lamb. It is a cross-breed hybrid horror-folktale that is to all intents and purposes sans dialogue. Praiseworthy is cinematographer Eli Arenson’s outstandingly framed, carefully blocked angles, positioning, and perspectives that do the most “talking,” in tandem with Þórarinn Guðnason’s atmospheric music and Björn Viktorsson’s in-depth sound design.
Noomi Rapace plays María and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason Ingvar, industrious Icelandic sheep farmers whose life is measured by nature’s cyclical requirements. Their remote farm is dwarfed by mountains; Maria drives the tractor, Ingvar and Dog feed/herd sheep, and meals are eaten alone, together—they do not communicate for at least the first 10-minutes of the film. Although the stabled sheep do (through camera, sound design, music). While birthing sheep, they deliver a twist of nature that, in solidarity, they appropriate and name Ada. Subsequently, María justifies her rash action as being necessary to secure the situation. Ingvar’s brother (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) turns up; during an indeterminable stay, he questions their “luck.” But when luck changes Maria is left to howl at the winds.
The film’s obscure screenplay is based on Jóhannsson’s childhood, when he spent time at his grandparents’ sheep farm. Together with Icelandic author, poet, lyricist Sjón, his memories were fashioned into a storyline/screenplay. The acting is fine. Agnieszka Glinska’s editing is ponderous, but then Jóhannsson does vacillate throughout from horror to fairytale. At the very end a lot becomes clear, e.g., the sheep uneasiness, reverberating lumbering footfalls. Even so, Lamb is more reminiscent of old-fashioned folklore like the Brothers Grimm, so consider this a cautionary notification. (Marinell Haegelin)