Lamb

Lamb ★★★★

Lamb was a directorial debut for Icelandic director Valdimar Johansson who had previously worked as a special effects technician on various US productions shot in Iceland, including Prometheus and Rogue One, among others. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was Iceland’s nominee for Best International Film at the Academy Awards.

Lamb begins deceptively. The first half-hour follows a regular married couple as they tend a farm in the remotes of Iceland. We get depiction of their quiet, untroubled life, see them about the business of farm work, watching Noomi Rapace delivering sheep and so on. The landscape around them seems vast and empty – frequently we get shots of them dwarfed like tiny thumbnail figures in the midst.

During these scenes, the film seemed an ordinary everyday work about a couple on their farm – one that left me questioning the fact that I had seen Lamb described as a genre film and wondering if someone else’s definitions were not off. Certainly, the scenes where they start tending the lamb seem odd – it is not a way you usually see people treat farm animals, putting them in blankets and cribs, cuddling them like an infant – but perfectly grounded and ordinary. That is until the 37-minute mark where we suddenly see that the lamb has a human child’s body and a sheep’s head.

It is here that we realise we are watching a film about a Human-Animal Hybrid. There have been films about Human-Animal Hybrids before. There have been a variety of full-on horror treatments such as the assorted experiments of Dr Moreau and other works like The Fly (1958), The Alligator People, The Wasp Woman, and The Fly (1986). Many of these have been of the super-powered variety such as the various adventures of Spider-Man or something comedic like The Animal.

Once the full figure of the lamb is unveiled, there is an undeniable fascination to watching the scenes as it walks around the house upright like a child and comes to sit at the table with everybody else, putting its own cereal on a plate and the like. With the introduction of Björn Hlynur Haraldsson as the brother, the film becomes a really good naturalistic drama – one that simply plays out around the husband and wife trying to treat Ada as a regular child up against Haraldsson’s brother who has difficultly regarding the lamb as human. The scene where he is won over is a delight. The film is often simple, minimalistic but no the less highly absorbing. It all arrives at an ending that is darkly sardonic and seems perfect.

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