Saturday, October 9

Lamb Review


Dir: Valdimar Jóhannsson

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson

1 h 46 m


The icy Icelandic sheep farm landscape in Valdimar Jóhannsson's folktale turned horror hybrid, "Lamb," is cold and lonely. It feels like an alien world with snowcapped peaks, rocky terrain, and rolling green fields. It's secluded, a place not yet visited by humanity, perhaps a planet similar to Earth but from another galaxy.


"Lamb" is another artistic piece of emotional drama mixed into a blender of genre influences from studio A24. However, unlike the production company's other films, "The Witch" and "Hereditary," "Lamb" takes a different, straight out of the deep left-field approach to its narrative manipulations.


Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) are sheep farmers, living a quiet life of routines and schedules in rural Iceland. One day the couple makes an alarming, act of nature, discovery inside their animal barn. One of their lambs is born different from the others in the flock. The other sheep recognize the difference and begin to act oddly towards the lamb, which is taken into the couple's home and named Ada. They nurture and care for the lamb as if it was part of their family.


The debut film from writer/director Valdimar Jóhannsson takes a matter-of-fact approach to the bizarre elements that the script introduces. There are moments when, under a different director's guidance or even under the influence of an American writer's pen, humor or comedy would settle into the proceedings to allow the tone to lighten and shift from its gloomy and dark emotions. Not for Jóhannsson!


"Lamb" settles into its modern folktale motifs and remains committed to blind guidance into the dialogues of the relationships that exist between humanity and the wonders of nature. The story for Maria and Ingvar is never wholly conveyed. They are a couple seemingly struck by a tragedy surrounding a child they once had; neither discuss it with words, but their interactions display heartbreak and a relationship on the verge of ending. Jóhannsson rarely commits to explanations surrounding the primary characters. Still, once Ava arrives in their home, it is visible that a wound has been bandaged, even if it is ominously fleeting as the film maintains a foreboding quality.


The photography of "Lamb" is a beautiful composition of landscapes desaturated by the constant presence of tumultuously cloudy skies. The invading dangers and reality of the outside world penetrate the house's interior, making it feel safe but claustrophobic.  Cinematographer Eli Arenson transitions from stabilized to walking motion shots, expressing both the temporary comfort and constant panic that new parents endure as their little ones grow.


The film's minimalistic approach runs out of steam as the movie wanders into complications, both with Ava's development and a guest who arrives to add context to the strange surroundings. These transitions in storytelling attempt to lead the film into different contemplative moods, specifically regarding Maria's parental fears. It's the committed work of Noomi Rapace's performance that keeps these pieces from completely falling apart.


"Lamb" is a unique, albeit offbeat and demanding, first feature from Valdimar Jóhannsson. While the outcome utilizes horror primarily as a framing device, the film is more influenced by the quiet yet creatively artistic works of Béla Tarr. Still, "Lamb" is an engrossing oddity from start to finish.


Monte's Rating

3.00 out of 5.00


No comments:

Post a Comment