Rams – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

March 24, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

Sheep have never figured much in my life. Yet in the past month I have read and discussed a book about sheep farming at my book club*, spent time considering Tom Roberts famous painting of sheep shearers and taken in this film. I will try, although not too hard, to avoid any woolly thinking.

Jealousy and a long standing family feud are the basis of a modern, yet timeless, tale set in a harsh and remote Icelandic farming valley. Two brothers Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) have lived side by side without speaking to each other for forty years, each tending to their ancestral flock of pedigree sheep.

When communication becomes necessary, Kiddi’s dog trots between the two houses carrying their handwritten notes between his teeth.  Kiddi appears quite gregarious while his younger brother is a dour fellow – a man who obviously loves his prize ram far more than anything else.

It‘s no rural idyll. Both men are unmarried and cut rather sad and lonely figures.   While I appreciate this is director/writer Grimur Hakonarson’s ode to a world he understands, I found the main characters unsympathetic.

In what appears at first to be an act of jealousy, Gummi reports his brother’s sheep as being possible carriers of scrapie (BSE)  – an incurable and highly contagious disease which attacks the brains and spinal cords of sheep.

Local vet Katrin (Charlotte Boving) reluctantly looks into the allegations and when tests prove the sheep actually do have scrapie, it is devastating for the brothers and for the valley. Every sheep has to be slaughtered, their bodies buried, barns cleaned and purged.

If it sounds a bit grim, it is.  Sheep are all the brothers have and they are proud of their flocks and it would be very hard to build them up again.  Others say they will have to leave the valley.

It may be a different culture, but many aspects and difficulties of farming life are universal and there is humour among the pathos. When Gummi scrapes a drunk and comatose Kiddi off the snow in his digger and deposits him at the emergency section of the town’s hospital, it seems he does care for his sibling – in his own offhand way.

Rams is a look at how much animals can mean to a man and his way of life.  This was born out by reading The Shepherd’s Life – A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks* so it did ring true. The film has been popular at international festivals, winning Un Certain Regard section at Cannes last year.

3/5 2015 M 91 mins with English subtitles Released April 7

Stars Siguraur Sigurjonsson, Theodor Juliusson, Charlotte Boving.

Director and Writer: Grimur Hakonarson



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