It is with huge assurance when I say you will have never seen another film like Lamb. So very odd yet beautifully alluring, give it time to settle.
Stare into a sheep’s eyes and you will see nothing but darkness. There is always that feeling when watching Lamb that the sheep are up to something due to the way it is shot, what is it they say about fearing that a duck is watching you somewhere? Well, these sheep are even creepier than that. This is not just any old Icelandic drama about a happy little family, it is far more sinister than that, crossing the threshold towards a horror film. Lamb uses its cute little pretences to cover up its much darker intentions, possessing a very eerie feeling attributed by the creepy score, the long-lasting frames with no dialogue, all the hallmarks of a horror for sure.
Lamb has taken the world by storm this Autumn, with a whole host of glowing reviews and a multitude of confused brains and scrunched up faces. It is to be Iceland’s entry for best international film at the next Oscar’s – as well as countless other festival entries – so it’s getting itself noticed alright. This is Valdimar Jóhannsson’s debut feature film and he’s played an absolute blinder as well, assisted by a good cast led by Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason, with this being Rapace’s first film where she speaks Icelandic, having learned the language when she was younger – a lovely little piece of trivia for you there.
Lamb is a very artsy film that has exceptional creative techniques assisting it throughout, the cinematography by Eli Arenson is quite sublime; a lot of symmetry with one focal point at the helm, the shots are left to stew in their own mystery, we are left waiting for things to pan out. The camera work also expresses that gorgeous Icelandic scenery in its full glory – it is one hell of a backdrop – the seclusion of the whole setting is so eerie which then magnifies the atmosphere of the film to creepy new levels. There are a lot of wide shots to intensify that space, as well as angsty close ups that show that facial emotion where no words are needed. Although, the score by Þórarinn Guðnason was equally as important, it creates something very unsettling; sharp, with high pitched sounds coming from all directions, it really is a little box of tricks this film.
Now to move on to the plot, the most unusual plot of recent times. In rural Iceland, a childless couple, María and Ingvar (Rapace and Guðnason), discover that one of their sheep has birthed a strange and frankly quite disturbing new-born baby; a half lamb half human hybrid – now it’s not every day you see one of those is it. The couple decide to raise it as their own, but a certain sinister force is determined to return the creature to the Icelandic wilderness that birthed her.
Lamb is split into 3 chapters, the first focuses on the discovery of the mutant baby and the establishment of the area – the first discovery of this lamb baby is quite startling, to a point where it’s funny – this offspring which was created in God only knows what kind of sexually twisted and devious way. They begin to love this baby as their own, although the lamb baby’s mother is desperately trying to get her baby back. Chapter 2 focuses on the introduction of the first outsider, Ingvar’s brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) who is first disgusted by the monstrosity but then begins to warm to it, creating some lovely albeit very obscure moments of bonding. With chapter 3 wrapping things up with a climatic finish, and if you think you’ve figured it all out by now then stop kidding yourself because you won’t expect this ending.
It is difficult to deconstruct a film as bizarre as this, but if I was to take a gander at what it meant I would say it involves themes of happiness and a willingness to accept the strangest of things if it results in one’s happiness. However, with that, the couple also stole this baby from its mother, their sinful act must be paid for in penance – temptation for selfish gain is not to be trifled with. There is something very biblical about the film and its message, it is dark and sombre and the good must face the consequences of such sinful acts.
Lamb really is ridiculous though, the obscure plot and the hybrid lamb are just weird, but under all that weirdness is a very good film and one I enjoyed thoroughly – behind its façade is a thought-provoking message about family life. It is an arthouse film of sorts, its lack of dialogue and large parts where nothing much happens (apart from the beginning and towards the end), the middle part is basically a quant family drama. The ending was very abrupt, with the whole film building up to that moment (it hits you like a brick to the face) but it’s one hell of an ending. Lamb is a very good film, and its uniqueness should be revered – you won’t see another film like this anytime soon