Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Ingvar Sigurdsson
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scene)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 18 November 2021
Synopsis: A childless couple in rural Iceland makes an alarming discovery one day in their sheep barn. They soon face the consequences of defying the will of nature, in this dark and atmospheric folktale, the striking debut feature from director Valdimar Jóhannsson.
There’s no better way to put it. This is a movie that is high on the W-T-F level. There is a scene in the film (you’ll know it when you see it) which will throw you off balance, simply because of how warped it is. The moment is easily one of the most absurdly out of this world reveals you would have seen in any movie. Here’s a hint: watch the movie trailer for an idea of what to expect.
Now that we’ve gotten your attention, let’s talk about the story which takes place on an isolated sheep farm in Iceland. The central characters are María and Ingvar, a childless couple who yearn to have someone they can shower love, care and concern. Early in the film, they are presented with a gift from, to put it simply, Mother Nature. The majority of the 106 minute film sees the appearance of Ingvar’s brother Pétur (the look on his face when he sees the addition to the family for the first time is priceless), and a series of events will lead to a finale that is bizarre as the concept of the film.
The movie, which is also Iceland’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, is Valdimar Jóhannsson's feature length directorial debut. He also co wrote the screenplay with Sjón, a poet, novelist, and lyricist who frequently collaborates with the singer Björk. It is not difficult to see how all the wacky ideas culminated in the film.
The setting of the film allows cinematographer Eli Arenson to capture some really sparsely beautiful sights. Throughout the movie, you’d be entranced by the mountainous backdrops, vast fields and mysterious fogs. Coupled with the minimal dialogue and atmospheric music, the film puts you right in the mood.
Noomi Rapace (whom most of us know for her fiercely passionate portrayal Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film adaptations of the Millennium series) and Hilmir Snær Guðnason (the award winning Icelandic actor is famous in his home country in film and on stage) headline the film as the couple who welcome a new member to their home. Rapace delivers a magnetic performance (the extreme close up shots on her face are mesmerising), while Guðnason is reassuring as the man of the family. Björn Hlynur Haraldsson plays Guðnason’s brother, who may or may not be hiding some secrets.
While it is convenient to categorise this is a horror movie, there is much more than that. Is it about how people are having fewer children these days? Is it about human beings going the extra mile for animals in the absence of kids, seeing their pets as part of the family? Is it about the love for a species which have large eyes, cuddly features and a cute appearance? The film allows you to ponder such thoughts and more.
Yet, it is haunting throughout and will continue to linger in your mind long after the end credits. If you are a fan of twisted tales, this one offers psychological elements, folklores and that freaky titular lamb.
(This sparse and haunting film is beautiful and bizzare, and definitely not short of WTF moments)
Review by John Li