I have to admit to having mixed feeling about writing any sort of review about the movie RAMS, which begins its season at Palace cinemas on April 7. Its simple humanist story made me feel so unqualified and inadequate to do so. This is no ordinary tale, in fact it’s a film quite unlike any other, a moving magnificent arts and cultural gem, which concentrates on unravelling the relationship between two battling brothers who haven’t spoken to each other in four decades.
Living in loneliness and isolation, two obstinate 60+ siblings rival their sheep in terms of their stubbornness and willingness to accept the status quo. Especially when one of their flocks of the historically bred prize winning sheep they tend is confirmed as being contaminated by a disease called scrapie.
It has no known cure and generally all the animals have to be destroyed, the farm sheds scrubbed out with disease killing disinfectants, fodder discarded as well as any clothes they have worn while tending them.
Superbly acted, it is especially touching for those who have had the experience of farming sheep. This is a rare movie full of wry humour. I said as much to my friend who accompanied me to see this gentle story full of pathos. It requires great patience to sit through. The two main characters are explored and exposed to our complete scrutiny warts and all, filling audiences like ours on a Sunday morning with uncomfortable delight.
Sigurdur Sigurjonsson as Gummi and Theodor Julisson as Kiddi give powerful performances, although Gummi is really the star, which is why his parents left him their farm.
He allows his brother to live in the old farm and lives alone in a newer building nearby, where he celebrates Xmas alone filling his house with candles and giving himself a present. The particular sheep he’s fond of, and the wonderful old sheep dog that trots between them both delivering handwritten notes, are all stars and capture our hearts.
RAMS is filmed in all the isolation and bleakness of the wintery Icelandic chilly scenery, a place where change comes slowly. Mile after bleak mile separates neighbours on the land from each other, forcing them to meet up in the local town, where the importance of community and about respecting the fact that at the end of the day, family matters, is vital to everyone’s survival.
Winner of Best Film at the Festival de Cannes in 2015 and over 24 international awards since, Director Grimur Hakonarson delivers a tale of two men who would, when the chips are down really die to save each other and to preserve the legacy of the bloodlines of the sheep they inherited from their ancestors. A revelation. 4/5
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