'Rams,' a tale of brotherly love

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'Rams,' a tale of brotherly love

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A quiet yet heart-rending Icelandic film, “Rams,” tells the story of estranged brothers Kiddi and Gummi growing close again through their beloved flocks of sheep. [INDIEPLUG]

Everybody has a driving force in life. It could be cooking one’s favorite food or it could be seeing one’s best friends. For unmarried middle-aged brothers Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) and Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson), featured in the upcoming Icelandic movie “Rams,” growing a flock of sheep is what keeps them alive.

These two characters are at the heart of the drama and, despite having grown up together and living right next door, they have barely spoken to each other for the last 40 years due to a family land inheritance dispute. Although they are different in every aspect, one thing they share is their sincere love for their sheep.

The film, which won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival last year, took the director, Grimur Hakonarson, three years to write.

“The story developed and changed many times during those years,” said the filmmaker through a press release. “I surveyed [about sheep], frequently traveled to Iceland and met lots of sheep ranchers. I put the biggest effort into helping the two main characters be knowledgeable about sheep both theoretically and realistically.”

“Rams” begins with the older brother, Kiddi, winning a competition for raising the most shapely sheep in town.

In the suburban village in which the two brothers live, where sheep are the most fundamental source of making bread, nabbing such an award is considered a great honor.

Filled with jealousy, Kiddi storms outside to have a look at the crowned sheep, only to notice signs that it is suffering from an infectious disease, scrapie, for which there is no cure. When it is confirmed that the crowned sheep is suffering from the degenerative disease, all the sheep in town are ordered to be decimated, which threatens the existence of the community.

The heartbreaking ruling is what eventually leads the estranged brothers closer together.

For those who may doubt the possibility of actual siblings not speaking to each other for decades even when they live in the same neighborhood, the director explained that such a phenomenon is pretty common in Iceland, “where people are stubborn and have a strong sense of land ownership.”

The filmmaker added that it is common to spot male ranchers who live alone in Iceland.

“Sons mostly inherit family farmland and daughters move out elsewhere in Iceland. So many men have a low chance of seeing women and they live lonely lives. Just as there are married male farmers on the island country, there are as many unmarried farmers.”

Although the movie lacks suspense in that the actual story the filmmaker is trying to deliver only unfolds after more than an hour has passed in the 93-minute film, it is nevertheless a rare opportunity for domestic audiences to enjoy a film from Iceland, where less than 10 movies are produced each year, and an exquisitely beautiful one at that.

The film also provides viewers glimpses of the island country’s extensive yet weather-battered scenery.

“Rams” is slated to hit local theaters on Nov. 3, and is rated for audiences 15 and over.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
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