• Golden Globe Awards

Lamb (Iceland, Sweden, Poland)

A baby lamb is born in the barn of an isolated farm in northern Iceland where Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Guṑnason) mourn the loss of their daughter.
Maria and Ingvar’s life revolves around raising a few dozen sheep and growing crops, mainly potatoes. Their regular routine is disturbed by the arrival of the new lamb which Maria immediately takes in her arms and feeds with a baby bottle. They name her Ada (which happens to be their late daughter’s name). The little lamb is soon revealed as a hybrid of lamb and human. “What the fuck is this?” exclaims Pétur, Ingvar’s brother, on a passing visit to the farm, at the sight of the anthropomorphic being. “Happiness,” replies his brother with a befuddled grin. While the birth of this mysterious creature seems to afford the couple a second chance at parenting, dark forces threaten to reclaim the source of their newfound joy.
That’s the premise behind Lamb, the first feature by Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson (who co-wrote the script with Icelandic poet, novelist, lyricist and screenwriter who goes by the mononym Sjón). The story, which blends regional Icelandic folklore with Jóhannsson’s own imagination, was partially inspired by the director’s childhood spent with his grandparents on their sheep farm. “I spent a lot of time with them, so a lot of ideas came from there,” said the director at this year’s Sitges Film Festival.
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Eli Arenson, the film is separated into three chapters. The setup of the story takes place in the first. What comes next is whether the couple’s actions are right in a moral and natural sense as they are both challenged and threatened by outside forces throughout the story.
It took eight years to produce the final version of the story because “we were not in a hurry,” said the director who spent much of his career working various crew jobs for Hollywood productions shot in Iceland.
Before he conceived the script, Jóhannsson began drawing images of a lamb-human hybrid creature in a visual book. To create the child, Ada, production used 10 children of various ages and four lambs and edited them together. Years working as visual effects supervisor worked in Jóhannsson’s favor.
The set was in a very isolated region of Iceland where sheep outnumber humans, there are no phone signals, and where, in the summer, the sun shines 20 hours a day. “I worked specifically on the photography and the chromatic range I wanted to achieve from the very beginning of the production. I wanted vast, empty natural landscapes that would command respect,” explained Johannsson, a student at Béla Tarr’s Film Factory in Sarajevo. Tarr serves as an executive producer on the film.
Lamb won the “Prize of Originality” in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the Best Film award at the last Sitges Film Festival.
The film has grossed $1.13 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.