Writer/director Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams is a film in which the setting in many ways dictates the tone. The visual palette is dominated by a uniquely Icelandic landscape of craggy hillsides and gaudily patterned casual knitwear, while the story – intimate though it is – often meanders unexpectedly through imposingly wide and arresting scenic shots. This powerfully conveys a sense of rugged isolation that is reflected back into a narrative focused on the relationship between the gentle and reserved Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and the fiery alcoholic Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), brothers whose sheep farms are separated by a few barren feet, but whose lives are separated by 40 years of wordless estrangement.
The prospect of a desperately bleak winter lies ahead for both men after the discovery of a fatal and contagious disease among their livestock results in an enforced cull, ultimately coercing them into an uneasy reconciliation in order to maintain the proud ancestral lineage of their prize-winning herds.
Sigurjónsson is charged with driving the plot, and he does so with lonely, muted aplomb from behind an enormous unkempt beard. As befits a drama of pastoral domesticity, the pacing is quiet and contemplative, yet never slow. As well as the breathtaking backdrops, there are a number of well-executed set pieces that serve to inject humour and heart into proceedings. More than one scene is stolen by the young actor playing the loyal go-between Somi, who delivers tetchy handwritten messages between the siblings (and who also happens to be a Border Collie). Through such means, Rams also provides a genuine sense of the bond between a farmer and his furry (and woolly) charges, which is a rare cinematic experience to say the least. By the time the gear change brought about by the tense and gripping climactic scene rolls around, audiences are liable to be emotionally invested in the characters to the point of genuinely caring about what becomes of them.
Rams is released nationwide on 5th February 2016.
Watch the trailer for Rams here: