Rams’ Icelandic valley is populated by sheep and people, in roughly that order of importance. The separation between the two populaces isn’t particularly distinct, given the prevalence of shaggy white beards and thick wool-knit sweaters. Sheep are integral to the local economy and ecosystem, and especially to ageing farmer Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), who treats his flock as his family. More family than his brother (Theodór Júlíusson), with whom he hasn’t exchanged a word in forty years despite living right next door.
Director Grímur Hákonarson captures the feeling of a farming community: the smell of hay and manure, the muted pastoral colours, the wistful sense of communion with and dominion of nature, the timelessness (Gummi still hangs a 1978 calendar in his house).
The film’s been marketed as a “droll comedy” but this tragicomedy is more tragic than comic, especially when the discovery of an incurable disease necessitates the cull of the valley’s sheep. The weight of that decision upon Gummi and his brother – two men with no legacy beyond their livestock – complicates and, ultimately, thaws their relationship. Rams is a simple yet powerful film; a fable about the things that matter to us that is insightful, touching and refreshingly unconventional.