by Lindsay Wong
‘Lamb’ is a haunting and thrilling tale that looks like it is simply about raising farm animals, but is actually so much more than that. The Icelandic film – which was the country’s submission for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards – features more animals than humans.
It is about a couple that live on an isolated farm, raising mostly lambs. One day, when assisting a pregnant lamb, they realise they have their hands full with a bizarre lamb/human hybrid – it has the head of a lamb but the body of a human child. The couple decide to take it in and raise it as their own.
With such an unusual premise, it is no surprise that ‘Lamb’ has various plot twists and a large shock factor. The audience is not aware that the lamb is a hybrid because her body is hidden throughout the chapter (the movie is divided into a few chapters). One may be questioning why a very normal couple would be raising a lamb as they would a human baby.
When the male protagonist’s brother spends time with the couple at their barn, he is initially hostile towards their new hybrid child. He considers it to be more of an animal than a human and even considers killing her, but has a sudden change of heart after seeing how much happiness she brings to the couple. It turns out that the couple had a stillborn child and taking in this hybrid fills that void.
From the very beginning, ‘Lamb’ has dark overtones that signify something bad is going to happen. From the ominous soundtrack to the colour scheme, first-time director Valdimar Jóhannsson does an excellent job of creating a tense atmosphere with his use of sound and cinematography. There are several shots where the camera only focuses on a certain frame of the scene or a certain person/animal to purposely restrict the audience’s view, which adds on to the mystery and suspense of the film. The backdrop of Icelandic nature adds to the artistry. As we cannot travel right now due to COVID-19 restrictions, we can appreciate the beauty of nature in foreign countries through film.
‘Lamb’ highlights how forces of nature come into play, as the hybrid grapples between the human parents that raised her and the animals that she originated from. As the couple believe the hybrid is a blessing gifted to them by some higher power, the reality is that there are others like her that want to reclaim her back into their own bizarre community. The shocking ending is even more bizarre than what happens throughout the film – it sheds light on how humans got too greedy with nature and will eventually have to pay the price.
‘Lamb’ is certainly a unique take on parenthood, loss, and nature. This clever horror film mixed with fantasy relies very little on dialogue, and instead focuses on the atmosphere and visuals. It is hard to empathise with the couple when they barely exchange words and it is hard for one to wrap their head around a hybrid acting like a toddler.
Because the film is shrouded in so much mystery, it is hard to deduce any meaning from the characters. Nevertheless, the chilling tale succeeds in shocking the audience and keeping them on the edge of their seats.
‘Lamb’ will be out in cinemas on 18 November 2021.