Eyes on Screen are now proud to acknowledge the Lincoln Film Society. The Society is a voluntarily run, not-for-profit organisation. Each year, they organise a programme of screenings, offering the very best of contemporary world cinema. This allows beautiful films with little or no exposure to take centre stage in Lincoln. For their 2016-17 season, Eyes on Screen will be reviewing each film screened. For more information on the Lincoln Film Society, please visit their website. For the latest news, you can also like their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.
The following review is of Rams (Iceland: 2015) – screening #3 of the Society’s 2016-17 season, shown on Friday 14th October 2016.
After receiving the ‘Un Certain Regard’ award from the Cannes Film Festival last year, it is safe to say that Rams is one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated films of the Lincoln Film Society’s 2016-17 season. It is a deadpan Icelandic dramedy which follows two sheep farming brothers who live side by side, yet have not spoken to each other for forty years. When their sheep flock in danger due to a scrapie scare, the brothers must learn to work together, else their livelihoods face turmoil.
As you can tell, Rams is rather barebones and you can distinguish the themes and style from that short summary. As mentioned, it’s suitably Nordic with the tonal balancing of serious drama with well-done deadpan comedy. The story is rather morbid due to the subject matter; if you are not aware, scrapie is a degenerative – and hard to control – disease which affects the nervous system of both sheep and goats. It is the crux of the storyline and the key scenes heavily involve sheep.
Thematically, for better or for worse, the film wears its message on its sleeve. It doesn’t go many places you’re not expecting, but the execution makes up for most of the narrative gripes. It’s a very visual film, and this is where the dry comedy comes into effect. There are strings of scenes where one minute you’re close to laughing, and then a moment later, the morbidity becomes too much.
With such a visual film, it was integral for the performances to be top-notch. Thankfully, Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson – playing the brothers – lead the film really well and show few weaknesses. They both fit their roles well, and so the “chemistry” between the siblings is effectively communicated. There’s an eccentric charm in their performances in conjunction with the plot beats, making the film highly watchable.
Unfortunately, on a personal note, Rams fails to be a cinematic highlight of the year. Whilst it’s a perfectly satisfying character piece, there’s just not enough meat on its bones to deliver any wow factor. In comparison to Mustang, the last film that the Society showed, Rams is less frequently captivating and wholly emotive. It lacks the same draws and is perhaps somewhat inaccessible.
Yet, to conclude, films exist considerably more failed than Rams. It’s suitably Nordic and serves as an interesting character dramedy; absolute essential viewing in such a respect.
Written by Luke Compton