In a remote rural area of Iceland, Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and older brother Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) live on neighbouring sheep farms and, although they have not spoken to one another in 40 years, they tolerate one another’s presence in silence. All of this changes when Gummi spots signs of scrapie (BSE) in his brother’s flock, which has catastrophic ramifications for the entire community.
Rams is a quiet film with a lot going on underneath the surface; the brothers treat their flock almost like pets, perhaps passing on the affection they obviously have for one another onto their sheep; and when things go wrong, the two find a way to save each other and themselves in the process.
The two leading men, Sigurdur Sigurjonsson and Theodor Juliusson have a special way of dealing with the lack of dialogue and silence their characters are surrounded with. As well as this, both men have a knack for making the absurdity and small feel of the film a thing of comedy, with plenty of laughs coming among the tragedy of the men losing everything they have worked for.
Writer/Director Grímur Hákonarson has created a small scale story that is filled with heart and humour; the events in the film are not going to change the world, but they are going to change the world for these two brothers, and perhaps put an end to decades of deafening silence. There are plenty of wonderful touches, such as Gummi talking to his sheep like they are friends, using a sheep dog to pass messages between the brothers and the odd overboiling of rage, which leads to windows being shot out and underwhelming fist fights.
The film is a slow burn, with the pace steady, but never one that threatens to move at anything but a crawl; this, however, is where the greatness of the film lies, since it gives the audience the opportunity to spend time with these characters. As well as this, the secrets of the film are gently unveiled, without dialogue heavy exposition, which gives the film a natural feel.
In all, Rams is a quiet, slow burning film that explores life in a small Icelandic valley, as well as the layers of affection that can build up under pride and stubbornness. There is plenty to laugh at in Rams, but this unassuming film is also touching and moving.