director: Valdimar Johannsson (debut)
starring: noomi rapace, lmir Snaer Gudnason, bjorn hlynur haraldsson and Ingvar Sigurdsson
REVIEWER: Lyall carter
A childless couple, María and Ingvar discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, but sinister forces begin to turn against them.
In the lead up to Lamb’s release there has been some pretty intriguing trailers and creatively unique advertising floating around. Which, as someone who sees quite a number of films in a year, piqued my interest considerably. While Lamb is a wholly original fantasy concept and plays beautifully with some themes in an allegorical way, it doesn’t quite carry the same definitive hammer blow ending that it needed.
Icelandic couple, María (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) live with their herd of sheep on a beautiful but remote farm. When they discover a mysterious newborn on their farmland, they decide to keep it and raise it as their own. This unexpected prospect of a new family brings them much joy, before ultimately destroying them.
While on the surface the narrative of Lamb is kinda bonkers, it plays well within the logic that it creates within its own story. There is the nagging thought in the back of your head that remains there throughout the film that Maria and Ingvar are hallucinating due to grief, but that just adds to its haunting beauty.
Lamb feels slightly longer than its under two hour run time due to multiple scenes that has sparse dialogue if any. At times this can serve to ratchet up some narrative or character tension, while other times it feels slightly wasted even if it that scene includes a stunning natural vista.
There are multiple themes at play here from parental grief, the quasi Christ like figure of the ‘newborn’ (from the Christmas based beginning) and even nature’s fury at it’s exploitation at the hands of humanity. But these themes, for all of their fantastical inventiveness, feel uncommitted to, as if they are just at arm's length. If they had been fully committed to them Lamb may have packed a punch similar to films with symbolism like Amelie or those allegorical fantasy films like The Shape of Water.
While Lamb is a wholly original fantasy concept and plays beautifully with some themes in an allegorical way, it doesn’t quite carry the same definitive hammer blow ending that it needed.