Legacy has a habit of turning hairs grey and retiring some to an early grave. Both in the periphery and the forefront of young and old alike, it is a driving factor for many in what we do. Create, recreate and strive is the underlying acknowledgement most of the world has come to quietly live by. The fantastic, stoic and pitch black comedy Rams portrays the unravelling when faced with the fear of disappearing.
Taking place in a small Icelandic farming community, the film begins with a best-in-show competition for locally reared rams. In direct opposition are estranged brothers Gummi and Kiddi. When Kiddi takes out the top spot, the film positions itself in the view of the seemingly jealous Gummi, who after a drunken inspection of his brothers ram, finds a rare case of the disease ‘Scrapie’. When this suspicion turns out to be true, all the sheep in the valley must be culled.
Originally positioned as the jealous sibling, Gummi soon showcases himself as the sweeter half of his remaining family. The true isolation begins to become apparent through Gummi’s absent minded looks, rendered in beautiful contrast with the magnificent Icelandic landscapes. His brother Kiddi becomes increasingly more violent and the separation only grows wider. The quieter moments of the films are deeply meditative, showing how each side of this sibling rivalry weighs themselves in the light of their own mortality. This acknowledgement of fear is vital to the success of the film, as neither brother is shown as hostile, but instead lost.
The unbecoming of Gummi and the resolution with Kiddi both begin to take shape around the halfway mark. A single action becomes the subtle turning point for the key relationships in the film. The laconic pace means the victories and defeats are nuanced, subtle and scarcely paced throughout. What fills this spread is excellent world building and the striking dissolve of time. Huge periods of time are swept by with little thought and put each confrontation in contrast with the time each brother spends in solace.
The creeping nature of death and the fallacy of legacy become paramount to the way in which Rams tells its small-world story. If you’re willing to turn away the ticking of clocks, this Icelandic film is a real must watch.
Rams hits NZ cinemas on the 4th of August.