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RAMS

SYNOPSIS:
Estranged Icelandic sheepfarmer brothers and neighbours Gummi (Sigurour Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) are also sheep show competitors, after a 40 year silence they have never broken. When Gummi discovers that Kiddi’s sheep may be infected with scrapie, a deadly disease that could wipe out all the sheep in their valley, the relationship is stretched yet further.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With a host of awards, not least Un Certain Regard (Cannes, 2015), Rams comes to Australia well recommended, something a foreign language film always needs, not least from the lesser known cinema of Iceland. Let's hope the accolades will encourage audiences to seek it out; they will be rewarded.

This is only Grimur Hakonarson's second feature (after several documentaries), yet he has amassed plenty of awards and attention with his offbeat subject matter and darkly comic sensibilities. (His first feature, Summerland [2010], was about an ordinary family running an elf tourism business.)

Set in a quiet sheepfarming valley in the north of Iceland, Rams takes us inside the apparently unruffled world of two brothers, Gummi (Sigurour Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson), stubbornly estranged for 40 years yet living as neighbours on the old family farm, communicating - only if essential - via notes that Gummi's dog delivers to Kiddi. The reason for their estrangement is so subtly revealed you might even miss it. They each raise sheep, and the annual ram championship is the major local event; the brothers compete fiercely (as do the other sheep farmers) for the forked twig that is the major prize.

H‡konarson (once a worker on a sheep farm) builds this world with care and precision, drawing us in with a silken web of cinematic technique we don't even notice. The principal actors are so natural and so damn credible we can't take our eyes off them, and of course we quietly hope for the kind of reconciliation that audiences love in romantic movies. The resolution in Rams is much less predictable and much more powerful. (Note the dedication of the film to H‡konarson's mother; and his father told him a true story of two such brothers years before.)

The cinematography and the score both play crucial roles in creating the mood and tone of Rams, each contributing superbly.

Deceptively seductive in its veracity and subtlety, Rams engages us, intrigues us and finally moves us beyond our expectations. It begins with the small death of a sheep, and builds from there, until the ramifications (apologies for the unintended pun) of that moment assume metaphoric proportions. To avoid spoilers, I won't elaborate on that except to say the nuanced development of the story hides its purpose until the end. It's a simple enough story, but it has universal relevance. Something of a minor masterpiece.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's the simplicity of the story and the way it is told that makes this quirky drama from Iceland both endearing and memorable. Critical to the success of the film is the fact that we engage with the protagonist from the outset; he is defined by his relationship with his sheep, and in particular with his prize ram. It's a story about sheep, estranged brothers and following rules - or not. With its wonderful sense of place, director Grimur Hakonarson's unique film draws us into its reality, where the characters live in a remote, snowy setting. The story may be simple, but the sentiments are not - we are fascinated, horrified, amused and greatly moved.

There is sincerity and genuine affection when Gummi (Sigurour Sigurjonsson) talks to his sheep. Communication with his sheep is far easier than that with his brother Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson), who lives next door. I love the way Gummi's dog is the go-between, who delivers messengers between the two brothers. The story evolves on a need to know basis with just enough information given to us little by little. We are eager to know more, but Hakonarson excels in his less is more approach. The scene when Gummi sits at the table doing a jigsaw is symbolic in that the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fall into place.

At the beginning, we understand that Kiddi is the black sheep of the family, while Gummi is the responsible one. The differences between them lessen as the story plays out - their need for each other growing all the time. Not a note is out of place - and that goes for the casting, the characters, the performances and the music, which is as understated as the action. This is a gem of a film and one that will stay with you forever. As for the powerful, final scene in the snow, there is no other scene like it.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

RAMS (M)
(Iceland, 2015)

Hrśtar

CAST: Sigurđur Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Břving, Jon Benonysson, Gunnar Jónsson, Porleifur Einarsson

PRODUCER: Grímar Jónsson

DIRECTOR: Grimur Hakonarson

SCRIPT: Hakonarson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sturia Brandth Grovlen

EDITOR: Kristján Lođmfjörđ

MUSIC: Atli Orvarsson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bjarni Massi

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 7, 2016







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