Tyro director Valdimar Johannsson also co-writes Lamb with a nod to the spectral aura of Robert Eggers’ The Witch. Much care is taken to what has befallen the area of a remote, hilly sheep farm with its toiling couple, Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason).
Their life has had its sorrows with background finally unfolding as the filmmaking does its best in guarding its revelations. What the couple discover in the sheep barn brings them much pleasure as they adopt ‘Ada’ after a winter thaw. The spare, taciturn approach is speckled with morbid wryness.
The ‘gift’ invites a domestic rebirth in giving Ingvar a new warmth and Maria very maternal in having Ada under blankets in a crib and being bottle-feed. Ingvar’s crude, ne’er-do-well brother Petur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) seems to put their new ‘happiness’ at risk along with something more freakish.
An agricultural, softly rhythmic texture often predominates with the ovine outnumbering their human counterparts. There’s a steadiness to what can lurch into type of isolated, bucolic existence. As the lensing can produce the surreal through creative ways with lighting, in as beclouding fashion. When the fleeciness isn’t acted out with bleating authenticity, there’s Rapace, best known for her breakthrough role of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the original, Swedish adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Her childhood familiarity with the director’s connection to the material and locations through his grandparents makes Maria a deeply felt variant on a tittsie character from a very well-known nursery rhyme.
The conclusion of Lamb may leave many at odds to what strays from convention and into strangeness not just from reactions like a desperate Petur or a pained, protective ewe.
A stimulated means of CGI and puppetry, not to mention the physical helps provide a plaintiveness to the inscrutable. Even as it stumbles it takes its parental ambivalence and rolling variability from the silence of the lambs to fruition.
Lamb reminds us of Lars and the Real Girl from 2007. Ryan Gosling in that one convinces everyone to recognize his not real girl as a real girl. Lamb finds Noomi Rapace treating a lamb as her child, but it is a dark Twilight Zone story.