'Lamb' Review: It's Ba-a-ad When Your Child Isn't Quite What You Expected
Time to stop counting and come back from your wool's errands because it's actually time to talk about Lamb (Dýrið in Icelandic), a sort of drama-horror hybrid about an Icelandic couple who begin raising a human-girl-sheep hybrid after a mystical presence seemingly enters their farm. The couple in question are played by Noomi Rapace (Maria) and Hilmir Snær Guðnason (Ingvar), while the film marks the feature debut for director Valdimar Jóhannsson who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sjón. After the initial shock and wonder of this new life starts to fade away from Maria and Ingvar, they are visited by his brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) who often makes unwanted advances towards Maria and isn't at first as receptive to Ada (played by several children according to credits), a name which she is eventually given.
Jóhannsson's confidence is pretty clear from the way that he focuses on what is right in front of him, an extremely important thing to understand in your first movie for 99,9% of filmmakers who don't have the budget for everything. There's one location but it is one that offers so much depth for cinematographer Eli Arenson to work with, dialogue is left only for two or three characters as Ada isn't really one to talk and the action isn't the point as far as the bizarre elements go so the runtime can stay fairly short. Lamb is all about the atmosphere that is created around the couple who aren't too intimate with each other anymore in the beginning and that is something that the filmmakers manage to do with this isolation that the lack of structure, traffic and noise provides for them.
That isn't to say that it's all about the mood because filmmaking itself also holds its own, mainly the mixture of visual effects, special effects, makeup and even puppeteering as it's often hard to tell what exactly is used in the scenes, a feat that's a sign of solid vision. Based on the number of VFX artists, however, you could pretty safely credit a lot of the animalistic mayhem to that.
There is a lot of artistry present but what is harder to connect with as a viewer is the narrative of Maria, Ingvar and even Pétur because here and there, they can be used as objects in the big picture even though they are making cognisant decisions when it comes to Ada. There's a thing which you learn that is probably there so you'd emphasise with Maria and Ingvar but even that gets vague because you don't know all that much about them. Not knowing them would make sense if they were characterised as disruptors, now it's making less sense when they are more traumatised than anything else.
Smileys: Atmosphere, VFX
Frowneys: Some issues with characterisation
Please don't sheep Pétur and Maria.