Thursday, 17 March 2016

Fleapit revisited:Rams

Sarah Lund's jumper in The Killing became a thing, didn't it? It's pretty unlikely, though, that the patterned knitwear sported by the hirsute and emotionally constipated cast in Icelandic sheep farming drama Rams (Hrutar) will reap much in the way of bonuses for Phillip Green's buyers.

It's not because the sweaters aren't canny or, more pertinently, that the film's a stinker. Just that, like its hirsute and taciturn protagonists, it works on a much smaller scale.

Feuding farmers Grimmi & Kiddi share a plot somewhere in the north of Iceland. They've both been there a long time. They're both starting to resemble the sheep that are their livelihood. They've both got shit going on. But they don't speak to each other. Not at all.

Both men yell impotently into the void that is the bleak Nordic landscape, and their anachronistic way of life, and rely on a sheepdog to pass messages between each other.

This lack of communication is highlighted during an agricultural show that reeks of passive-agressive behaviour. A dysfunctional way of existing that is heightened still by the long lonely nights. Gummi drinks milk and does jigsaws while Kiddi necks vodka and stumbles around in the snow.

Despite the good guy/bad guy set up both men are equally hamstrug by their demons and the film zones in on them and how, when hardship is imposed upon their valley, they deal with them. It's interesting how easily a relationship of any kind can be poisoned. More so how readily available anti-venoms are eschewed through vanity and pride.

There's more beards and truckers caps than a Grandaddy rehearsal in this film. Don't let that put you off. It's artfully shot with gentle nods to Bela Tarr's legendary long takes (dungaree donning, snow shoveling, even bathing) but with astonishing lead performances from Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, whose expressive eyes write their own scripts, and Theodor Juliusson who though painted in broader strokes has perhaps the more intriguing character arc. Charlotte Boving gives excellent support as sympathetic inspector Katrin. Her and her colleagues investigations helping to unravel both the pastoral and the personal mysteries of the valley.

This film may not send you rushing to Reykjavik, or even the H&M sales, but spare a corner in your world cinema collection for this fable of friendship and bring these Icelandic icemen in from the cold. Sometimes you can get a warm feeling in the coldest of places.

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