Everything You Need To Know Before Watching The Horror Movie “Lamb”
There are bad movies and there are baa movies. Valdimar Jóhannsson’s irresistibly odd “Lamb” fits right into the latter’s realm with his intentionally hilarious parable of horror about… well, what is it exactly? On the surface, this is an effective review of the healing powers of parenthood. But behind it all, this wolf, literally disguised as a sheep, nurtures a sinister sequence encompassing appropriations, anthropomorphism, murder, and ultimately revenge. Yes, it is not pleasant to cheat on Mother Nature.
Cynics will say that Jóhannsson and co-screenwriter Sjón Sigurdsson are just throwing light on us with their story of a couple of childless Icelandic farmers (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) raising a centaur strangely born from one of their sheep. But if you’re willing to suspend disbelief for a few hours, you’ll find that they’re actually on to something pretty deep paralleling crimes against nature and how they relate to the days before- war when the children of slaves were kidnapped by their masters and brought up as their own.
Such atrocities were permitted because whites had the absolute power to treat their “possessions” like animals, a blatant moral violation made possible because biological parents had no rights. PETA, I’m sure, would say the same about farm animals. And in a way, “Lamb” will satisfy its members with the way the film humanizes cattle. But don’t let me get too bogged down in metaphors, not when Jóhannsson, making his directorial debut, is more richly invested in the horror aspects of his creation.
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As Robert Eggers did with “The Witch,” Jóhannsson relishes a slow burn, skillfully transforming the spooky combination of dread and isolation to build to the point that the stunning Icelandic landscapes take on the face of the proverbial haunted house. It’s as if Terrence Malick had cross-pollinated with Stephen King. It was only after 40 minutes that Jóhannsson showed his cards. And, wow, is that effective, causing a mystical combination of chills and laughter. Revealing said cards would only decrease their impact. So, I implore you not to read reviews that contain spoilers.
All you need to know is that Jóhannsson is a master at getting in touch with his inner Guillermo Del Toro by brilliantly mixing shock and satire. The amazing thing is that the more absurd “Lamb” the more you invest, just because you are so carried away by the charm of the film, you are eager to follow Jóhannsson down the bizarre road he will take next. And when he sticks to that roadmap, he’s worth gold. Where he falters slightly is in his portrayal of Maria de Rapace and the “Days of Heaven” type love triangle involving her, Ingvar de Gudnason and Ingvar’s brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), a former rocker drunk and stranded star who appears out of the blue with immediate designs on her alluring sister-in-law.
In a way, Pétur is our surrogate, an impartial observer forced to weigh what happens on the farm as ethically healthy or completely messed up. His reaction to his first meeting with the child Ada is priceless. And it’s exactly the same as ours since we are also eyeing Ada for the first time. But what surprises her even more is the change that motherhood has instilled in Maria, whose perpetual hardship has been replaced by an aura of Madonna as serene as it is erotic. Ingvar seems to agree. Suddenly, the silent distance between him and Maria gives way to the benevolence and passion attributable to Ada. It’s as sweet as it is scary, which is the point. But Pétur’s machinations seem forced and unnecessary.
What I would rather see are more of the weird interactions between Ada and her adoptive parents, because you also start to believe that the child is human. This has to be attributed to an unbeatable combination of the austere yet charming cinematography of Eli Arenson and the animators and puppeteers who bring Ada to life in a compelling way. And aside from a vague and somewhat disappointing ending, “Lamb” is a wild, woolly adventure that, despite minimal dialogue, says a lot about how far a couple will go to make a dream come true, even as it descends. in a nightmare. And to Jóhannsson’s credit, he rarely misses a bleat.
(R for language, nudity, and certain sexual situations.) The cast includes Noomi Rapace, Hilmer Snær Guðnason and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson. (In Icelandic with English subtitles.) In theaters October 8. Note: B
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