Rams (Iceland)

2015 Iceland

SUNDAY 24 July 10.00 am
TUESDAY 26 July 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 92 minutes


A small story about two old estranged brothers and their animals gently morphs from gentle near-absurdist comedy to something close to tragedy. A simply but skilfully told tale of the hardships of isolated rural life in Iceland, even today.


Director Grímur Hákonarson’s droll and tragic tale of Icelandic sheep farmers encapsulates all the best things about Nordic film-making: polished storytelling, radiant humanism, great acting and immaculate cinematography that shows off the stunning landscapes (in this case, Iceland’s bleak, treeless moors) to their best advantage.

Unfurling a delicate, perfectly pitched tale of curmudgeonly bachelor brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years (a scene-stealing sheepdog passes notes between them), it modulates effortlessly between absurdity and tragedy, as an outbreak of scrapie threatens to wipe out the livestock they love. Sigurður Sigurjónsson has the more prominent part as the wily sibling who appears to comply with the authorities, while Theódór Júlíusson rages against the enforced slaughter of their herds.

A documentary-maker originally, Hákonarson neither sneers at nor sentimentalises this agrarian way of life, which tries to preserve ancient bloodlines and knitwear patterns in a modern world where disease outbreaks have dire economic consequences that can reach far beyond a single valley or community.

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/film : 5/2/16 Edited extracts / accessed 9/3/16


Rams is a touching humanist drama set in a remote farming valley where two estranged brothers must come together to save what’s dearest to them: their sheep. Director/writer Grimur Hakonarson, an experienced documentarian, capitalises on his extensive knowledge of Icelandic bachelor farmers and the unique landscapes of his homeland, while spicing the proceedings with some wonderfully wry, charmingly understated comic moments. Like his compatriot Benedikt Erlingsson in Of Horses and Men, Hakonarson lovingly captures a deeply rooted rural culture that is closely connected to the Icelandic national spirit.

Although they have not spoken to one another for 40 years, Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and older brother Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) live on neighbouring farms against a harsh and majestic northern landscape that becomes a fateful character in the action as autumn gives way to winter. Both men breed sheep from the same ancient pedigree, and each year they are rivals in a valley-wide competition for best ram.

When Kiddi’s flock shows signs of scrapie (BSE), an incurable and highly contagious virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord, the veterinary authorities decree that all the sheep in the valley must be destroyed. It’s a devastating blow for the local farmers, but the order hits hard-drinking, unruly Kiddi and quiet, thoughtful Gummi particularly hard, and they rebel against the rules in their own distinct ways.

With a keen eye for detail, Hakonarson naturalistically presents the rigors of farm work, the plainness of his solitary protagonists’ lives and their deep affection for their sheep. Spot-on production design by Bjarni Massi Sigurbjornsson supplies interiors that look as if they haven’t changed since the 1940s, but which also provide reams of character information. The worn-looking Icelandic sweaters and ripped flannels that the brothers wear also speak volumes about men living without women.

As Hakonarson’s beautifully modulated film progresses, recurring images contrast and poignantly resonate with meaning. Although some of the action is heart-rending, Hakonarson maintains a respectful tone of admirable restraint throughout.

Of course, the main reason the film registers so affectingly is the casting of two of Iceland’s best actors. As the older, angrier brother, Juliusson (so good in the 2011 Directors’ Fortnight title Volcano) shows a range that makes one long to see him as King Lear. But the audience sympathies are carried by Sigurjonsson, through whose kind eyes the story unfolds.

Source: www.variety.com 15/5/15, Edited extracts/accessed 10/3/16