In Iceland two estranged brothers who have not spoken to each other in over 40 years come together to save their dearest possessions, sheep.
When a deadly disease strike the valley’s sheep farms an entire way of life is under threat, brothers Kiddi and Gummi device their own ways of handling the crisis.
Film director – writer Grimur Hakonarson answers a few questions about his acclaimed film RAMS.
Reviewers have mentioned the humor in the story. Describe Icelandic humor.
Iceland is a country with a lot of Gallows Humor. I also have a dry sense of humor, very black. The humor in the film is the basic idea of brothers not speaking. It is a tragic comedy because they live so close to each other but do not communicate. The natural humor comes from the situation.
Should the relationships in the film be classified as dysfunctional?
Yes, definitely it is dysfunctional relationship with stubborn independent old men. This is part of the Icelandic character. It is ridiculous! There is no one to talk to but the sheep so the brothers contact with each other. The film is based on a true story.
Did you worry about audiences reactions to characters who relate to animals better than they do to each other?
No, I was not worried. People connected to the characters. Some people are more worried about the sheep than people is amazing for me. Audiences who are not familiar with farming life sympathize with the animals and their plight. The emotional connection is a great achievement for the film. There is no classic cinema love interest in the story. That is what makes the film special.
Due to the dialogue constraints how was the character developer process?
Sigurdur Sigurjonsson and Theodor Juliusson are theater trained. There were a lot of rehearsals. The film has silent moments so we practiced using facial expressions. This was important. The actors spent time on a farm to get a feel for the environment. Of course I was there with them.
Where the characters hopelessly obsessive?
Maybe they are a bit obsessive. No, these guys are bachelor farmers, in isolated circumstances. There is a passion for the sheep here. They are like family members. People will make sacrifices for them as they would for a child.
There is a farmer in Iceland who wants to be buried with his sheep. He is trying to get a permit.
The characters do not appeal for sympathy but there are many layers of shifting sympathy in Rams. Was this because of situation?
Of course! I like to shake things up. I followed the basic screenwriting formulas but with twists and unexpected turns for the viewers. The sympathy shifts as the film goes on. It was a conscience decision.
What is the role of the landscape in the film?
The terrain is just there. It’s vast. The main focus is the isolation on the edge of civilization.
How did you work with the Director of Photography on capturing the scenic elements?
Working with Sturla Brandth Grovlen was great! The Best! We did a lot of preparation and storyboarding. The shooting style was wide angles mixed with static and tracking shoots.
The filming technique influence was “There Will Be Blood” along with some Romanian New Wave. Our gaffer, Aslak Lytthans, was really important. He and Sturla had worked together before. They were not from Iceland but gave the film a fresh perspective.
The film has been well received at film festivals. Has this been a surprise?
Yeah! It has been a Rollercoaster. I did not expect the success. Rams has put me on the map. It has been a shock.
Rams is the office entry for Best Foreign film from Iceland for the 88thth Academy Awards.
Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard Award Winner
Zurich Film Festival Golden Eye Winner
Hamptons International Film Festival Golden Starfish Award Winner
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Variety described Rams as a touching, and wonderfully wry comedy.