Who would have thought that a film about sheep could bring you to tears? Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Júlíusson) are brothers. They live next door to one another, they are both shepherds, and they have not spoken in 40 years. When scrapie (a degenerative disease fatal to sheep) is discovered to have spread through nearby farms and infected Kiddi’s sheep, both men are forced to slaughter their flocks. But the brothers share a rebellious streak; when the opportunity to save the rams presents itself, Gummi and Kiddi, like two horn-locking rams themselves, must reconcile and conspire to save their sheep.
Hrútar (Rams) unfolds against a backdrop of breathtaking Icelandic landscapes, through the seasons and into a fierce winter, which sees every inch of the scene covered in a thick, white blanket. When they lose sight of one another in a blizzard as they attempt to chase a small flock to safety, Kiddi eventually discovers Gummi lying unconscious in the snow. Huddled in a narrow shelter dug into the side of a snowdrift, Kiddi tenderly cradles his brother as he himself shivers, overwhelmed perhaps by the cold, perhaps with fear of losing his brother, or perhaps with rage and regret at the years wasted on anger and resentment. It would seem that the brothers are destined to share the same uncertain fate as their beloved rams.
The performances given by both Sigurjónsson and Júlíusson are imbued with extraordinary vitality and performed with heartbreaking sensitivity, securing an emotional investment from the viewer that only grows as the story develops. Linking the various elements of a gripping plot, and the extraordinary shots captured by Icelandic director Grímur Hakonarson, is Atli Örvarsson’s exquisitely haunting music. His melodies have the power to elicit a devastating emotional response, and linger long after the last frame has faded into the end credits.
Hrútar (Rams) does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for Hrútar (Rams) here: