Lamb is not a prequel to The Silence Of The Lambs but is an equally shocking viewing experience. One that audiences certainly won’t remain silent on as the exit the cinema.
A childless couple in rural Iceland make an alarming discovery one day in their sheep barn. They soon face the consequences of defying the will of nature, in this dark and atmospheric folktale, the striking debut feature from director Valdimar Jóhannsson.
Yes, this is the movie where a couple raise a part lamb – part human child.
“What the fuck is this?” Ingvar’s brother Pétur exclaims upon his arrival, neatly echoing the audience by that point. Johannsson keeps his cards admiringly close to his chest for the majority of the film. For he knows that it doesn’t matter how it happened, just that it happened.
Where other filmmakers could have taken the easy path down the “elevated horror” route, Johannsson delivers something surprisingly tender and moving.
Whether Ada’s delivery is a miracle or an abomination, she is giving Maria and Ingvar the chance to play happy families and to work through their grief together.
It is easy to admit that on paper, this is a movie that could have gone disasterously, or hilariously, wrong. Ultimately it succeeds, to the point where you don’t even question the relationship, thanks to the performances of Rapace and Guðnason and Ada.
The movie is at times a silent movie and yet Rapace and Guðnason are able to speak volumes without saying anything. A worried look when a newborn lamb takes a few seconds to stir after being born. An empty crib tucked away in the barn. It is clear that this is a house struck by tragedy. Then slowly, laughter, love and life return to the house through the appearance of Ada.
It is worth noting that this film features the finest animal acting since Black Philip. The entire cast of animals, from sheep to dog to cat are all incredibly expressive and play their parts perfectly. To the point where they should have been credited as featured performers.
Jóhannsson has a background in special effects (having worked on the likes of Prometheus and Rogue One). This skillset is put to excellent use. Combining an actor, animatronics and special effects… or maybe just a real lamb to give life to Ada. Once the initial shock wears off, it is impossible not to warm to this sweet, strange, innocent creature.
However the arrival of Petur threatens to shatter the family unit with his feelings towards Ada and also Maria.
The film is made of chapters, one could almost title them Birth, Life and Death, and gives the story a fairy tale feel. Albeit one that resembles a Grimm Fairy Tale… and there is always a moral to the story. For whilst Ada is seen as a blessing to the couple rather than a freak of nature, they risk the wrath of mother nature by tearing her away from her real mother. Perhaps blind to the irony of the situation, it is a cruel act with a price that must be paid.
Lamb is in cinemas from December 10
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson
Runtime: 106 minutes