Directed by Grímur Hákonarson
The piercing Icelandic drama, “Rams”, is a wonderful examination of obsession, bringing us an ironic tale in which two estranged brothers and sheep farmers compete avidly to win the annual competition for best ram that takes place in their tiny mountain village.
Gummi and Kiddi, magnificently played by Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson, respectively, have their houses placed at a very short distance. On the idyllic green fields that surround them, they breed the most robust sheep in Iceland, a tradition they took from their ancestors.
Due to unclear reasons, the unmarried brothers don’t speak to each other for 40 years, time when their parents decided to put the farm in the name of Gummi, a pacific, if sly, farmer who gets along with everyone in town. Kiddi is exactly the opposite, being anti-social, often rude, and constantly drowned in alcohol. Lately, he gets so drunk that his brother, who fears him, has to save him from dying frozen in the ditch. Kiddi has never thanked him and pays him back with a few more threats and harsh words.
Even before the disappointing second position in the competition, Gummi, finds that his brother’s sheep are being fatally struck by a disease, which later on is confirmed as scrapie. Gummi promptly warns the authorities, which decide to exterminate all the animals after spotting two other sheep farms affected with the contagious disease. This drastic measure is necessary and irreversible, even taking into account that it’s also a huge financial setback and a trauma for the farmers who’ll have to destroy the tools they had been using, burn all the hay stored in their barns, and wait two long years in order to buy new sheep.
Apparently, all farmers acquiesce with the order, understanding the risks of a widespread contamination, except the crabby Kiddi, who refuses to cooperate in the cleaning.
Gummi decides not to wait for the authorities, and against the regulations, takes action by shooting 147 sheep with a pistol. After the painful practice and pretending to be emotionally ruined, he fools the sanitary inspectors, hiding his best ram and seven sheep in the cellar where he attempts reproduction.
Meanwhile, he manages to clean Kiddi’s barn after taking him to the hospital with another booze crisis.
After being discharged from the hospital, Kiddi discovers Gummi’s secret, and the story makes a complete U-turn. The brothers, in their uncontrolled obsession, decide to work together for the first time in order to save their prestigious animals.
Written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson, who’s also a skilled documentarian, the detailed and well-photographed “Rams” feels authentic and tragic.
Built with the proper tension and purpose, this moving drama may be seen as a lesson for life where the bad and the good intertwine. The unexpected ending, suggesting further thought, shows that sometimes the understanding and tolerance among people come too late and not always for the best reasons.