Dýrið [Lamb] (2021)

Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Writer: Sjón, Valdimar Jóhannsson
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 2.10.2021

Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) and Maria (Noomi Rapace) are sheep farmers in a rather remote location in iceland. Their lives are quiet and revolve entirely around the sheep. They have no children, but when a very special lamb is born one day, they take it into their home. It seems that the universe has given them another chance at happiness. But things aren’t quite as simple as that.

Lamb is a strange beast of a film going from horror to drama to comedy and back again. But thanks to excellent performances and great characters, it works very well indeed.

The film poster showing a painting of Maria (Noomi Rapace) cradling a lamb in a jacket, calling to mind a Madonna painting.

Lamb is a cute film in many ways – until it isn’t cute at all anymore. It’s also sad and funny at the same time, and generally takes quite a few turns that I really didn’t see coming, both regarding the plot development and the mood of the film. (Equally unexpected for me was seeing a custody battle with a sheep, and rooting for the sheep for sure.)

One thing that is very consistent about it, though, is that it takes its time to tell its story and to introduce its characters. In other films, that slow pace may have been annoying, but here it fits the setting, the story and the people so very well that I didn’t mind in the slightest.

Maria (Noomi Rapace) cuddling with a lamb in a jacket that wears a flower crown.

Especially since the characters are so wonderfully portrayed, both by the script that is a masterclass in show-don’t-tell, and by the small and really fantastic cast. It was always interesting to discover new things about them and their relationships with each other.

As an additional bonus, the cinematography was excellent and the film made me freeze with its snowstorm scenes. But more importantly, underneath its slightly twee and certainly unusual idea, there is a depth to it. It turns out that Lamb is a film that asks Big Questions, and in a very thoughtful manner to boot. It’s definitely not something you get to see every day.

Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) holding a lamb wrapped in a jacket in his arms. Maria (Noomi Rapace) is standing next to him, looking backwards.

Summarizing: highly recommended.

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