In the beginning of this Valdimar Jóhannsson directed film, his debut (he also wrote the script with Sjón Sigurdsson), one thing becomes evident. Not much else does, mind you, but still, there’s one thing you can feel completely certain of… you’ll see much more from Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson in the coming years.
It’s best to go into “Lamb” not knowing too much about the story as a whole so, I’ll attempt to write this without spoilers, but that may be impossible. I will, however, promise not to give away the most important part of the story. Want to go in blind? Stop now. Just know that it’s a trip. The distributer is A24; how could it not be?
The camera slowly moves in on a group of horses huddled together in an Icelandic blizzard. They’re practically snow-blind, but the sound of an approaching enemy is all they need to get them to move away. As they disappear, the enemy presses on. Are “we” the impending danger? We next see a group of sheep, startled by footsteps. Their door has been breached. One lamb dies on the floor. It looks as if it offered itself to save the others. That’s not the case, of course, but we can tell ourselves that. In a kitchen, it seems as if lamb is being served on a platter.
This is a fantastic yet barbaric opening. You’re in.
Soon, you meet Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason). They run a sheep farm out in the middle of nowhere. You learn everything you need to know about them in three chapters, with very little dialogue used. It’s better that way because then you see what they’re capable of. Love. They have plenty of that to share.
They tend to the herd very well. We’re even given actual footage of sheep being born. The childless couple delivers plenty of babies on their farm, but the latest seems different. Maria is concerned about the baby and quickly whisks it away from the barn. Its little cries are heartbreakingly adorable, but you’re comforted when you see that the little thing takes to the bottle quickly. Then, it’s treated to an old crib that’s placed in the couple’s bedroom. Maria is often heard singing it a lullaby or two. It isn’t long before the baby has a name, Ada. Turns out that Ada is the same name as the child they lost.
I love animals, but is this maybe going beyond? Ingvar’s brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) sure thinks so when he comes for a visit and witnesses their bizarre behavior toward the furry little bundle of joy. He can’t help but wonder what has gotten into the minds of his brother and sister-in-law.
Did you like “Hereditary?” Did you enjoy the feel of “The Witch” and other such offerings from A24? If that answer is yes, as it should be, you will like “Lamb.” It’s dark, odd, mysterious and hard to pin down, as most of their films tend to be.
In chapter two, you learn that little Ada has the head of a lamb, but it’s on the body of a human. Your next and obvious question is, “How in the world?” Well, you have to see it.
Not only are you and Ada’s new uncle worried, but so is the actual mother who gave birth to the half-human/half-sheep child. She learns concern wasn’t a good idea, though. Too late, unfortunately.
Maria is very territorial, and no one is going to get in the way of her happiness. Is she dealing with loss in the proper fashion, or has it scrambled her mind? That’s for you to decide. Ultimately, “Lamb” symbolizes the human spirit, the good and the bad. What you see in the end is quite possibly the consequences of always putting the human race above all else, putting our needs first. What kind of world are we creating by playing with mother nature the way we do?
Lamb from A24
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Writers: Sjón Sigurdsson, Valdimar Jóhannsson
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Hilmir Snær Guðnason
Producers: Hronn Kristinsdottir, Sara Nassim, Peter Gustafsson, Erik Rydell, Klaudia Smieja, Jan Naszewski
Runtime: 1h 46m
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Thriller
*Original Language: Icelandic