Mother Nature is turned upside down in the folkloric horror film “ Lamb” (2021). The enthralling cinematography and the violin and cello score will please even the uneasy. Animals seem to know more than we do about the natural order of things. The Icelandic horses, the family border collie, their cat are wary. It is easy to attribute anthropomorphic thoughts to their neighing, barks, and meows. Yet, their stares are what send the chills up your spine. Especially, the sheep seem to code “ Don’t go to sheep”. There is wisdom here.
Yes, Director Valdimar Johansson’s film is slow to unspool, but it is beautiful. Texture is what we see: breath steam, wood grain, snow blasts, horn ridges, blades of grass. The film’s colorist, Eggert Baldvisson, is an artist using blues and browns arrestingly. Cinematographer Eli Arenson proves to be one of the best. The vistas of mountain peaks and streams alternate nicely with rural farm framed window shots and sheep barns. Clothes flapping on the line and a windy grave yard mesh with homey dinners, familiar dancing, card playing and watching soccer on tv. Normal, yet so not.
Porarinn Gudnson’s score is full of violins, cellos, piano and drums. The music leads our emotions perfectly.
We don’t learn the names of our three characters until mid-film, and their backstory is more hinted at than told. Superb acting is on all fronts. Swedish actress Noomi Rapace , of ” Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (2009) fame, is good at showing a darker side of motherhood. Possessive motherly traits and unresigned loss lead Maria to easily acquiesce to a surrogate for Ada ( her dead daughter ). I did find it creepy that Ada’s name was so easily usurped.
Maria and her husband communicate with glance more than with words. Rapace has wonderful facial control for this ” glance language”. Likewise, Icelandic actor Hilmir Snaer Gudnason provides a face of hurt and care to Maria’s husband, Ingvar. When Ingvar cries alone in the tractor, I did, too. When he drags the old baby crib out of the barn, we know what will bring this couple complete happiness. His teaching Ada how to use the geology of the region to always find home is sweeter than any father/ daughter talk I have seen.
Ingvar’s off-beat brother, Petur, ( Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) serves as another pair of eyes. He is funny, lazy, and constantly coming on to Maria. His well-timed line, “What the fuck is this ? ” had the audience bursting with laughter. When he takes Ada by the hand along with a rifle, we worry. Suspense is a keynote to horror.
The slow reveal and the matricide plot are ominous. Dreams of wild-eyed sheep play a part. Ada’s goldenrod sweater will imprint along with her laurel buttercup crown. She is seen as a gift, a new beginning. She becomes the reverse. This review will not give the three chapter plot or the melodramatic ending up. Just see this film for its originality and its bow to folktales.