Noomi Rapace Makes an Alarming Discovery in Icelandic Folktale

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It would be easy to succumb to as many sheep and joke puns as possible. Truth is, until I get the to the bottom of this article, I’m making no promises. However in the recently released trailer for Lamb, inexplicable gifts are nothing to bleat about. The movie, which recently received it’s premiere on July 13th at the Cannes Film Festival, marks the directorial debut of Valdimar Jóhannsson.

Valdimar Jóhannsson co-wrote the film together with Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, better known as Sjón – an Icelandic novelist, poet and lyricist. Sjón is known largely for his collaborations with fellow Iceland native Björk, as well as his performances with The Sugarcubes under the alias Johnny Triumph. From a writing perspective, Sjón would be best described to the uninitiated as a surrealist.

Lamb tells the story of a rural Icelandic farming couple receiving an inexplicable and nigh-miraculous gift, which they interpret as being given to them by nature itself as a means of helping to soothe the pain of some lasting loss. Of course, events inevitably take a hard right turn from dreamy melancholy and folksy drama into outright horror and sanguine comedy. A perfect match for the surreal pen of Sjón.

The trailer itself is refreshingly bereft of details that could be labelled outright as spoilers. Jóhannsson’s camerawork makes the most of the strikingly gorgeous Icelandic scenery, while also bringing home the feeling of abject isolation that one would feel, farming so far out in the wilds. The trailer does not concern itself with dialogue from the two leads shown on screen.

Neither does it need to loudly proclaim itself by adding the bombast of the typical trailer narrator. Instead we’re treated to a series of seemingly random cuts, with characters humming or vocalising – singing to a (as yet unseen) child in a crib, or carrying a not-quite revealed, infant-sized bundle. Other clips in the trailer focus on herds of sheep all staring at something off camera, or the female character burying something that looks very much like a horn. All the while through the background plays a low, ominous tone. The cumulative effect is of a dreamy, ephemeral atmosphere threatening to sour at any moment into an unspeakable nightmare.

The cast seems to be as threadbare as the trailer itself. Björn Hlynur Haraldsson plays “Pétur” with the second male role of “Ingvar” being filled by Hilmir Snær Guðnaso. The most recognizable member of the cast is Noomi Rapace, best known for her role in the Swedish adaptation of the Millennium series and of course as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in 2012’s Prometheus. In Lamb, Rapace plays the character “María.”

The trailer alone is a wonderfully restrained exercise in “less is more.” This trailer is refusing to give Lamb away even as the dreamy, obscure, threatening montage shown in the minute plus trailer serves only to pique curiosity. Take a look for yourselves. Never has imminent dread looked so scenic, or of course, so forlorn.

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