23/04/2018

Rams - The Lonely Extinct

Quick Thoughts: Rams (Hrútar, 2015)


Made by Grímur Hákonarson, this is the Icelandic film of the series.


Rams is an excellent movie, one imbued with a scenic quietness that has the land around its story and characters speak for all that lies within. It is then the fog, the snow, the mountains and hills, the grass and dull sky that emanate a solemn loneliness. And, indeed, this is what the film appears to be about. That is, along side themes of place and family, which bring the narrative ever closer to the lands it features so prominently.

Rams is centred on a quiet sheep farmer who lives right next to his brother. The two never talk and that's about all that would signify they're brothers. Early in in the film they compete against one another in a local ram-judging contest, but soon after, a case of scrapie (a fatal disease) emerges among the flocks, which may see every single sheep in the valley slaughtered.

On one level, Rams plays out from here as a small drama about the bond people can develop with their animals. On a deeper level, however, this is an allegory about lineage. The two brothers are seemingly the last in their family; their parents are dead, they have no wives, they are getting old and they have no children. In parallel to this, the sheep the two brothers farm are a rare pedigree. If the sheep are all slaughtered one of the purest breeds of sheep (Iceland harbours some of the purest-bred sheep in the world because it is so isolated) would be lost. There then emerges from the loneliness of the film a strong sense of frailty. We can see this on three levels; not only is the brother's family lineage in danger of ending, but so is the sheep's and so is a rural culture of Iceland.

Looming over Rams' narrative is then a profoundly subtle threat of extinction. This threat presses upon the quiet and the isolated as a result of their hubristic solitude. In fact, the sheep, the brothers and the depicted Icelandic culture are all at risk of choking on their own poison, made distinct by their quiet isolation, but also weak, hanging precariously in a balance between past and future. Whilst there is melancholy in this film, there is also a sense of comedic stoicism - especially in the brother's relationship. This threat of extinction is consequently confronted plain-faced and combated with the taking up of responsibility. And such leaves this film torn between the past (and all of the hardship that characterises it) and an inevitable end, but not a mere tragedy.

Without wanting to spoil this film, only recommend it to all, I'll leave things here. If you have seen Rams, however, what are your thoughts?

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