I want to go to Iceland. I blame Björk for sparking my interest. There is something about her discordant eccentricity, the kookiness of Icelandic names and the brutality of the landscape that makes me think this would be a country worth knowing. It’s possible that Rams is the first Icelandic film I have ever seen and it didn’t disappoint.
Rams is a place-based story and we are immersed in the isolated landscape of two brothers, Gummi and Kiddi, who live next to each other in a remote valley. They each have a flock of prized sheep, bred from ancient bloodlines and, although they live only a stone’s throw away from each other, they haven’t spoken in 40 years. When Kiddi’s sheep are found to have scrapie, authorities move in to destroy all the sheep in the valley, threatening livelihoods and centuries of tradition.
What I like about this film is its quiet, observational story telling. We aren’t given much history of the two brothers, we are just immersed in the moment with them and we follow Gummi as he calmly responds to the crisis at hand. The landscape and climate are ever present characters in the narrative and we see how the isolation and harshness has created the stoicism, stubbornness and, ultimately, community of the two men. There is humour and pathos and a glimpse into a sparse and simple rural way of life.
I was never sure where the story was going but, when it reached its climax, I realised that, of course, this is what the film is really about. No spoilers, just watch it right to the end. And stay for the credits – all those Icelandic names and even the sheep get a mention.
Bechdel test – fail (but I didn’t mind)