Written and Directed by Grímur Hákonarson, “Rams” explores the results of estrangement and isolation through gorgeous visuals and stunning silences.
Nestled in a valley in rural Iceland are two estranged brothers, Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson). Separated by a fence, they farm their local award-winning rams side by side until Kiddi’s stock is infected with a deadly disease that threatens to spread through the valley, potentially contaminating all rams in the area, including Gummi’s. The town orders that all rams in the valley must be slaughtered, effectively ending this ancient, cherished breed of rams and leaving the farmers without an income for at least two years. After a forty year silence between them, the brothers’ passionate love for their animals slowly brings them together to save their stock and themselves.
Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams is simple in premise, but is, in fact, incredibly powerful, moving, and not to miss. Hákonarson offers us a window into Gummi’s lonely, traditionally mundane existence. As we watch Gummi move through his routine, sleeping and waking alone in a twin bed, preparing and eating meals by himself, including a Christmas dinner complete with candles, we see that this is the life of a farmer. A life spent living on bare essentials, no frills, waste not want not. And yet, one cannot help but wonder how Gummi’s life was different when he had a meaningful relationship with his brother forty years prior, before mountains had grown between them. This made Gummi’s heartbreakingly beautiful love for his rams even more devastating; without a family or even close friends, his animals are his life, his livelihood, they are quite literally all he has. Hákonarson masterfully depicts this solitude through his use of silences, which could almost be another character–the roommate who moved in when Kiddi moved out. These loaded silences accentuate the sparse yet specific dialogue with meaning and subtext, allowing every word to be heard.
The performances were outstanding, particularly from Sigurjónsson as Gummi and Júlíusson as Kiddi. Both actors created extremely well-developed, fleshed out characters with rich histories through very few lines. Sigurjónsson was particularly impressive; he conveyed such sensitivity and soul that you’d know exactly how he was thinking or feeling and why just from an expression or a look. Like Gummi’s honest and pure love of his animals, Rams’ power is in its simplicity.
Rams opens in select theatres on February 3rd. The New York Premiere of the Cohen Media Group release was presented by Reyka Vodka. An after-party followed at The Late Late.