A touching and humanist drama based around a remote farming community, Rams explores human relationships and farming traditions in an isolated community in a beautiful and natural way. The winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes, the film is another in a series of strong Icelandic films and shows signs of the high quality of Icelandic art to come.

The simplistic premise of the film is the effect that a scrapie (an incurable and infectious disease) infestation has on the inhabitants of a rural community of sheep farmers and, in particular, on the strained relationship of two brothers. The disease requires the entire stock of sheep to be killed, and new sheep cannot be safely introduced to the area for three years, so it has a large effect on the rural Icelandic community. Gummi, played by Sigurður Sigurjónsson, is a quiet farmer in Bárðardalur, an isolated valley in North Iceland. His brother Kiddi, Theodór Júlíusson, lives next door on the same plot of land, but the two haven’t spoken in decades. Both avoid other people but find great solace in the company of their sheep. Director Hákonarson has a keen eye for details, and naturalistically presents the rigors of farm work, and the worn-looking Icelandic sweaters and ripped flannels speak volumes about the isolation of the two men.

As with many Nordic films, it’s difficult to place Rams in any one genre. The director Grímur Hákonarson uses real-life story elements to weave together a story that feels realistic. In the end, the film feels like less of a film and more of a clip of someone’s life. The lack of narrative and limited dialogue leave much to interpretation, and the panning shots of the Icelandic landscape are particularly striking. The cultural element of the film is what makes it so excellent – the Danish veterinarian, played by Charlotte Bøving, who is charged with enforcing the scrapie laws, represents the menace of the oppressive continental powers, and the draconian foreign-imposed rules and regulations. This creates a near paranoid fear that Icelandic sovereignty is constantly under threat, which is presently expressed through the widespread support for the fierce anti-EU movement.

Similar to last years Nordic Council Film Prize winner, Of Horses and Men, the film lovingly captures a deeply rooted rural culture that is closely connected to the Icelandic spirit. The film is not unsympathetic, but rather an intimate, and ultimately introspective, portrait of one mans struggle to cope with change.

  • Directed by Grímur Hákonarson
  • Produced by Aeroplan Films
  • Starring  Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving


CategoriesIssue 10
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.

Comments are closed.