In keeping up with some splendid films from around the world, I finished watching the Icelandic film Lamb. This is Iceland’s official entry to the Oscars this year and it is a part of the top 15 films which are shortlisted. And this is perhaps the first Icelandic film that I will be watching and reviewing. We have been fed in woth many folklores as we grow up. These are the ones that begin as bedtime stories often recited by our grandmother. The setting of fantasy and the myticism is often that forms a crux of the story. On those lines, does Lamb live up to the tag of being in the Top 15 at the Academy Awards, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Lamb follows the story of a grief stricken couple who discover a newborn hybrid on their farm in Iceland. The story is unique here, unlike anything that you may have watched or heard this year. So at the very concept level you might either love it or reject it completely. For me it did work as it was willing to offer something different. The screenplay is an absolute slow burner which relies a lot on the atmospherics. The slow buildup is evident from the first scene where the main conflict is established. Thereafter with the introduction of the two protagonists the ball is set in motion. The leisurely paced screenplay allows you the time to settle in and sink your teeth in this unique concept. It might be unbelievable but if you look at it from the gaze of the two protagonists then you would be willing to give this drama a chance. The fog in the hills adds to the mystery. The twists and turns are so subtle that it may not jolt you immediately. There might be a section of the audience which may think that almost nothing is happening. But it is the journey that is quite fascinating here leading upto a shocking but not entirely convincing final act. Perhaps that final act is something that may or may not go down too well with the audience considering that it came out of the blue instead of it being a lurking part of the world it is set in. I did have mixed feelings for the ending but the sustained mood of the drama cannot be ignored either. Overall, a different screenplay that is an absolute niche and it depends on how much of it you wish to believe in. And the emotional thread that is maintained is something that acts as a glue here.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are minimal and instead the focus is on the silence that also acts as a character of its own. The BGM is subtle and never overpowers the drama. The cinematography is excellent here. Director Valdimar Johannsson has done a pretty good job here with the sustained atmospherics that contribute to a subtle folklore. This was a difficult concept to pull off and the direction definitely shines here.
The performances are quite nuanced. Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson as Petur does a good job as the lusty brother of the protagonist. Hilmir Snaer Gudnason as Ingvar is wonderfully restrained and does a fabulous job. Noomi Rapace as Maria has the most textured role here. The pain which she carries can almost be felt and she lives through her role so beautifully.
Lamb is niche with a concept that is quite unique contributing to a subtle folklore that would invite extreme reactions. If you are willing to experiment a bit then go for it, else steer clear.