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article imageReview: ‘Rams’ shows varied resilience in the face of conflict Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 15, 2016 in Entertainment
‘Rams’ is an Icelandic drama that weaves a gripping story about two estranged brothers who find common ground when their ancestral sheep-stock is threatened.
Being blood relatives doesn’t foster an immediate affinity or adoration of each other. Family feuds can be the most virulent as they tend to run deeper than simple disagreement and are often passed on to or inherited by future generations. However, on occasion, desperate or tragic circumstances can force even the most loathsome to put aside their differences. In Rams, two brothers and neighbours have not spoken in 40 years but a sickness in their community may demand change in more ways than one.
Even though brothers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) raise their sheep next door to each other, they do not speak. When necessary, written messages are carried between houses by Kiddi’s dog. They are each other’s polar opposites. Gummi is quiet and well-liked in the village, while his brother is rowdier and somewhat of an alcoholic. Unsurprisingly, when it’s discovered the sheep in the Icelandic valley are infected with scrapie — an incurable degenerative disease — they handle the news very differently. As Gummi quietly complies with official orders to handle the contagion, Kiddi digs his heals in and causes trouble for everyone. However, in the end, this awful turn of events may be the only thing that can bring them back together.
The film provides very little context, launching straight into the story and leaving the audience to work things out as the narrative progresses. Conversations with various characters reveal pieces to the puzzle, gradually giving viewers a better sense of what is happening and the effects this news will have on the protagonists’ very different personalities. The brothers’ relationship is at the heart of the story as they must indirectly or involuntarily interact with each other due to this outbreak. It seems that no matter how much they try to avoid each other, they are constantly drawn back together over this matter. It’s also somewhat amusing when strangers unaware of their separation impose on Gummi to appeal to his brother.
This is a deliberate drama and even though the specific occupation of raising sheep may not be universally accessible, framing it from the perspective of the estranged siblings and a threat to a community’s livelihood makes the story more relatable. Moreover, the actors are incredibly convincing and their uneasy chemistry adjusts accordingly throughout the narrative. While it’s not impossible to predict the direction of the film’s conclusion, it does still manage some unexpected turn of events.
Director: Grímur Hákonarson
Starring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson and Charlotte Bøving
More about Rams, icelandic, scrapie, Sigurour Sigurjonsson, Theodor Julusson
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