Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) are neighbors and brothers but they haven’t spoken to each other in decades. When they see each other and their prized rams at a sheep competition, Gummi suspects that Kiddi’s sheep might be sick with a highly contagious illness. He voices his concerns and a short while later all of the sheep in the entire valley are ordered to be killed to stave off further infections. But neither Gummi nor Kiddi want to accept that and so they find themselves re-evaluating their feud with each other.
Hrútar is a hugely enjoyable film that takes some nice twists and turns until it not so much ends as simply stops in a weird place. But apart from the abrupt ending, I enjoyed it immensely.
As far as I know, Icelandic people have a special bond with their sheep (and I don’t mean that in any way suggestively, but very sincerely). That is also a big part of this film: Gummi and Kiddi only communicate with each other about and with sheep (without speaking, of course), at least at first. They take care lovingly of their prized rams. When the illness is diagnosed and the decision is made that all sheep in the valley have to be slaughtered, it becomes apparent that people are not only dependent on the sheep for the money they make through them. They can’t imagine living in that landscape without sheep at all. So it’s not surprising that a lot of Gummi and Kiddi’s neighbors decide to leave. Farming without sheep is simply unthinkable.
And thus the later events in the film – that would seem simply weird and irrational without that emotional grounding – make perfect sense, even if they probably still don’t come from the best decisions ever made. But Hákonarson opens a window into this world and like a good ethnographer, he shows you what is relevant in that world and not what is important to you in yours.
For that factor of cultural immersion alone, the film is very much worth it. But it is also simply a funny film with two very strange protagonists. It is alternatively funny and touching to watch the brothers struggle through their problems.
Really my only beef with the film is the ending that not only came out of nowhere, it also, to me, only leaves a very bleak interpretation that won’t fit that well with the rest of the film’s tone. But it is still a very memorable ending to a wonderful film.