This is a strangely compelling film, weird and mysterious, based on a dark Nordic folk tale with a touch of the suupernatural.
Set in a remote corner of Iceland, it features a farming couple, Ingvar and Maria, with fine performances by Hilmir Snaer Gudnason and Noomi Rapace (the girl with the dragon tattoo).
The couple are grieving for the loss of a child, and they go silently, deliberately, about the daily chores on their lonely sheep farm. The landscape is dramatic, brooding, often misty.
It’s lambing time, and the couple are in the stable, helping the ewes deliver their offspring. There is something strange about one of the births, but it takes a while before this is revealed.
Ingvar’s brother Petur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson), a failed pop star, turns up announced and threatens the family’s balance. After he hits on Maria – is there a history between them?– she orders him out of the house.
This is the first feature film for director Valdimar Johannsson, and he handles it with assured confidence, slowly establishing a feeling of foreboding without making it easy for his audience.
Animals play an important role. A group of wild horses emerge from the mist and suddenly react in alarm at an unseen presence. A persistant ewe keeps bleating at the window. Something is making the cat nervous and the family dog uneasy.
(The dog, an Icelandic border collie called Panda, actually won a posthumous Palm Dog award for its performance. This is an actual award which has been handed out for 20 years.)
Iceland’s stark and beautiful landscape is lovingly filmed by Eli Arenson, and Thorarinn Gudnason’s sombre soundtrack underlines the growing tension.
This is a film which will leave you wondering – but it’s certainly worth seeing.
Lamb is now showing at Luna Leederville.