Icelandic film ‘Rams’ a hit with Iranian audience

TEHRAN, Apr. 25 (MNA) – ‘Rams’ by Icelandic filmmaker Grimur Hakonarson’s, a beautiful humanistic drama about a broken sibling relationship, was opened to an excited Iranian audience in the 34th Tehran’s FIFF.

I admit; I actually went to watch the Icelandic drama film ‘Rams’ in the 34th Fajr International Film Festival for one reason: Iceland. The Nordic island has always held a strange fascination for me, and I always looked upon it as a place as far different from my hometown as it could possibly get. The whole country’s population is about 300,000, while Tehran alone is home to a population of around 9 million in the city and 16 million in the wider metropolitan area. You could say, I love peace and quiet, a quality that abounded in Grimur Hakonarson’s heartwarming, humanistic drama.

Breathtaking Nordic landscapes and a deeply-rooted rural culture were brought to life with the power of Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s cinematography, perfect production design by Bjarni Massi and Atli Örvarsson’s film scores that felt like thousands of feathers softly caressing your soul. 'Rams' tells the story of two estranged brothers living in separate but neighboring houses in a remote farming valley, who have not spoken to each other for 40 years. From the point of view of a traditional Iranian audience, who prioritizes family ties above all else, this seems to be quite a feat, at times even incomprehensible. How can two brothers feel so alienated from one another for such a long time? Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and older brother Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) only spare passing glances at one other as they participate in a valley-wide competition for best ram. But their distanced relationship is soon to be challaneged. When Kiddi’s flock shows signs of scrapie (BSE), an incurable and highly contagious virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord, the veterinary authorities order the slaughter of all sheep in the valley. For these two brothers who have maintained an emotional tie with their sheep, the decree comes as a devastating blow. And as the story unfolds in its magical, compelling way, with its strange comic moments that startle a laugh out of you (the audience cooed every time a smart sheep dog carried messages between the two brothers, or when a veterinary official opened the door to investigate the case of some surviving sheep gathered outside only to be hit in the face with a shovel and lose consciousness, you couldn’t help but burst into surprise laughter), you start to lose yourself in the quiet, heart-rending narrative as shown through the kind, somber eyes of Gummi, as played by one of Iceland’s best actors. They lose the sheep but find each other in a way that no one had predicted. 'Rams' may, at first glance, have nothing in common with an urban citizen such as the audience that had gathered on Thursday at Charsou Cineplex to watch one of titles in the main competition section of the 34th FIFF, but it did resonate with almost everyone there.

“The story is rather common in Iceland and probably in many other places, as well,” says Bjarni Massi after the screening of the film. “You can find everywhere people who are living next to each other but haven’t spoken to each other for years, sometimes for no particular reason at all. But then, something happens which brings these people back together, as it unites them to fight for what they so deeply care for. And in my opinion, that’s the beauty of this film and life.”

Massi tells us about the connection between the two brothers that does not need words to be maintained; “they don’t speak to each other, but at the same time they know what the other is thinking. They are connected in such a way that it takes nothing to bring them back together when they have to. This connection is shared between family members no matter where on earth. South or north, east or west, when it comes down to it, we are all the same and it really doesn’t matter where we live.”

Massi takes the similarity even further as he makes a comparison between ‘Rams’ and ‘The Cow’, a 1969 Iranian film directed by Dariush Mehrjui, which also features on the poster of this year’s Fajr festival.

“I watched 'The Cow' and found many similar themes running through the movie, like the way he treated his cow, and the relationship between a human and an animal which runs deeper and connects the two on a very intimate and emotional level,” he says. “There was also another similar point about 'The Cow', that is its being credited with beginning the Iranian New Wave, and the fact that it was produced with a very close, small group. We did the same with 'Rams', a film produced on a small budget and with a small group of people who closely knew one another.”

Massi also tells us about two ‘crazy’ things that happened during the production; “we decided to film the first part of the film which occurs in winter in the northern part of Iceland with its long winters and constant snow. We went there in January and prepared to shoot when it started to rain and all the snow just disappeared! It was crazy!”

They had to come back a month later when the snow had started to fall again, but “this time there was a big eruption under a glacier. It could actually start a big flood down the valley or the wind could blow the plum of ash toward us which could be very dangerous. But this time, we kept going and finished the film. At night, we would sit in the kitchen and watch the mountain out of the window.”

“Thankfully no one got hurt,” he is quick to add.

“So based on your luck, we should probably expect a volcano eruption outside the theater once we step out,” jokes Reza Kianian, an acclaimed Iranian actor and also head of the festival palace.

There was no eruption though, not of a volcanic kind anyway. People left the theater late at night, but all in a good mood. ‘Rams’ had managed to give the audience something to enjoy and think deeply about. My first experience with an Icelandic film did not disappoint.

 

'Rams' (Icelandic: Hrútar) a 2015 Icelandic drama film written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson was screened in the 34th FIFF on April 21 and 24. The film has won the Un Certain Regard Prize for 2015, the Special Jury Award at the 2015 Transilvania International Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Tromsø International Film Festival in 2016.

 

The 34th Fajr International Film Festival is currently underway at Charsou Cineplex, Tehran, and will run until April 25, 2016.

 

 

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