Lamb is not a crowd-pleaser, nor should it be. Resting on top of the food chain, humans obtain what they want. How they achieve their desires is through any means necessary. With growth comes knowledge; with knowledge comes anguish. The more we know, the more we want. When something is taken from us, we will fight tooth and nail to get it back. The tragedy of humanity is the adult’s loss of innocence which leads to their loss of remorse.
Valdimar Jóhannsson paints a stunning portrait of a destroyed family. Mr. Jóhannsson seems to have had his struggles with depression since he perfectly captures what it’s like to have life sucked away from you. Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) do the same routine every single day. Wake up in the morning, help the lambs deliver a baby, kill one, eat it, go to bed, rinse, wash, repeat. The two are far past their sexual desires for each other, and there’s hardly interaction between them at all. Then, something changes.
In what could either be a miracle or a curse, one of the lambs gives birth to a half-human, half lamb hybrid. Looking upon its eyes, Maria and Pétur view the child as a type of gift from God, providing the two one last chance to have a family. It doesn’t take much to discover that the couple had children before, and now they are deceased for unspecified reasons. Maybe the lamb is an allegory of the great fruit that tempted Eve, Maria and Pétur raise the lamb-boy as a child of their own, unaware of the grave consequences they will face for biting into the apple of temptation.
Rejecting the Lamb’s biological mother of the same species, Maria and Pétur create a fantasy for themselves stuck in their small farmland, focussing all of their attention on their new child Ada. There’s a shock in seeing Ada in full view for the first time. From my limited visual effects experience, I think the filmmakers had a child or little person perform with a green mask covering their entire head or dots placed on their face via Irishman style. The head is later keyed out in the post and replaced with a lambs head, which I think might have been filmed in live-action at all angles with many different lambs. The animal’s head is then plopped on the child’s face, going frame by frame, matching the performer’s body movement. The result is something that looks off, but in a rare instance, it’s supposed to appear problematic. Upon viewing Valdimar Jóhannsson’s IMDB profile, he has an extensive catalog of VFX department credit, verifying my thoughts that this director knew exactly what he wanted to do with Ada’s equally adorable and disturbing appearance.
Lamb is the definition of a screwed-up movie that will leave you repulsed, frustrated, fascinated, or all of the above. When things begin to go south in the plot, the movie goes from eerie to full-blown terrifying without relying on traditional horror techniques to place it within the category. Ada stars in a film that’s the love child between Eraserhead and Antichrist. Lars Von Trier’s depression and David Lynch’s surrealism encapsulate this heartbreaking tale of letting go of our happiness for the greater good. Life can be full of letdowns. When something comes along that could go our way, we worsen a situation rather than prevent something terrible from happening.
Instead of sharing Ada with her mother, Maria decides to reject her altogether. When Ada is introduced to Pétur’s brother Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), he’s almost too disgusted to say anything. The first time Ingvar witnesses Ada with his very eyes is when we see the child dressed fully lit in a profile shot. Ada grows on Ingvar much as he grows on us. When Ingvar addresses his brother, saying, “what is this?” Pétur replies, “happiness.” For a moment, I forgot about the awful things Pétur and his wife did to keep the lamb-girl for themselves. I just wanted them to be happy, yet they must face penance for their actions but refuse to, so karma comes for them.
I love movies that are about people who perform questionable tasks because humanity is filled with that. We sometimes make cruel decisions because we believe the world is full of threats, so we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from further heartbreak. In trying to stop something from happening, we create more problems, and it’s not until we realize how far we’ve lost touch of our compassion that it’s too late to save ourselves from our cruelty.
Þórarinn Guðnason’s cinematography captures a stunning image of life lost. The colors are degraded but intricately rather than relying on the color wheel in post-production. The lack of over-the-shoulder shots, relying heavily on medium close-ups, shows how trapped these people are in their alternate reality, unable to accept the laws of nature.
Everyone is surrounded by death, whether the lambs are being cooked or we’re viewing the baron lands of a Swedish farm with no walks of life for miles away. Lamb is one of the best portraits of depression I’ve seen brought to cinemas for a long time. It’s a film to be watched, then rewatched, and watched again but not consecutively, or you may need to go on Prozac. It’s one of Noomi Rapace’s most crowning performances. I equally hate and feel sorrow for her, leaving me wondering how I should feel. There are no easy answers in life, just questions, brief moments of happiness, followed by agony. There’s a soul-crushing truth to the film. We have to appreciate what we have while letting others enjoy what is rightfully theirs. Of course, many of us don’t do that, and that’s where the cycle of violence stems from. You might not like this film, but you won’t forget it after seeing it.
Let me know if you agree with my rating.