Wondering what a film from Iceland has to offer someone in America? Quite a bit, actually. Though the world of sheep farming might be something most of us only think about in December when it comes time to hear the Christmas story, Grímur Hákonarson stages a wonderfully contemplative drama in this space with his film “Rams.”
Events occur less like a traditional causal plot and more like a parable, with each step shining a spotlight on a difficult moral quandry. Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) is just an ordinary man tending to his sheep who lets his worst angels briefly overtake his better ones. Resentment over his prize ram losing a competition leads him to snoop around the pen of his rival and discover something suspicious. But what looks like cheating was actually scrapie, a destructive virus, with ramifications affecting the entire community.
Hákonarson’s direction, both drolly humorous and poignantly dramatic, provides plenty of moments to take the pulse of “Rams” as it unfolds. We can watch the events take their toll on Gummi as his idle gossiping forces massive reckonings with forces he long kept submerged, including his estranged brother Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson). Even amidst the familiarity of such a small rural community, he also struggles with the obligation to his beloved sheep – who he might love more than his fellow humans.
And because the film is so grounded in the specifics of Gummi’s experience, “Rams” resonates on a scale that transcends national borders. Hákonarson has his finger on many an important lesson surrounding jealousy, pride and familial obligation. They are more than worth reading the subtitles to glean. B+ /