Genre labels are all well and good, and they can greatly help a movie reach an intended audience, but there are also times when genre labels work against whatever is being labelled. Take Lamb, for example. It has been touted by some as an impressive horror. I don't like to tell people what they can and cannot label a movie. I wouldn't try to sell Lamb to anyone as a horror though. Dark fantasy, yes. A drama with one strange element at the heart of it, yes. A horror? Not for me, no.
Maria (Noomi Rapace) and her husband, Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), spend their days working away on their isolated farm in Iceland. Things get very odd when one of their sheep gives birth to a creature that Maria and Ingvar decide to raise as their own child, named Ada. It has the head of a lamb, but the body of a human child. They see it as a chance at happiness, but a visit from Ingvar's brother (Pétur, played by Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) underlines how others will view Ada.
Directed by Vladimar Jóhannsson, who also co-wrote the script with Sjón (aka Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson), Lamb is an enjoyable oddity that uses fascinating imagery to liven up a tale of grief and finding happiness after a major loss. It becomes clear from very early on that Maria and Ingvar have struggled to move on from the loss of a child, with the script and performances initially showing us characters who are questioning how they keep on simply moving forward, and that makes the strange central idea an easier one to buy into.
Rapace and Guðnason are both very good in the lead roles, brimming with a complicated mix of depression, a sense of inevitability, and some love trying to battle upwards for fleeting moments in the sun. Haraldsson is also very good, entering the movie at just the right time to disturb any potential idyll. He has the easier role, but does well showing his fluctuating feelings for those around him, especially Maria and Ada.
Bleak scenery is representative of the mood throughout, and this is very much a mood piece, but it also manages to look strangely picturesque. The location helps, while placing Ada in the middle of various scenes, looking so strange, but dressed and acting like any young child, transforms a dreary environment into something weird and temporarily, incongruously, lively.
Well worth checking out, just be prepared to accept some very strange moments while you are shown the lengths that people will go to in order to grab a lifeline potentially pulling them up from a sea of grief.
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