On October 8, “Lamb,” a nightmare-inducing horror film written and directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, debuted in theaters with the promise of disturbing moviegoers with its slow, unsettling pace and weird story.
In “Lamb,” Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Gunason) are Icelandic sheep farmers who are grieving the loss of their child. The film was co-written by Sjón and distributed by A24 (of “Midsommar” and “Hereditary” renown).
Despite the tragedy, the couple is given a second opportunity at motherhood when a lamb is born with a human physique. (Imagine the Minotaur from Greek mythology, but with the cuteness level of Anne Geddes’s illustrations for “Sweet Tooth.”)
A fantastic plot may appear to be open to a straightforward, one-to-one metaphorical reading when read on paper. Jóhannsson’s picture, however, eschews the obvious and heavy-handed in favor of complex explorations of loss, maternal love, and what it means to be human, all of which can be just as horrifying as the actual monster of the film’s climax.
The Final Chapter: What Happened?
Lamb, even up to its unsettling climax, typically progresses without a lot of dialogue. Recent comments made by Jóhannsson to Variety reveal that he and his co-writer, Sjón, set out to have as little dialogue as possible.
“We aimed to maximize the use of visuals. Since we also experience the world through the eyes of the animals, viewers may assume they understand the characters’ inner thoughts. We intended for them to do the same with the performers, interpreting their expressions and body language to infer the animals’.”
In the third act, the tensions culminate when Maria removes Ingvar’s brother from the farm, making Ada, the hybrid lamb child, and Ingvar more susceptible to the mysterious creature the film has been hinting at throughout.
Actually, we haven’t even seen it yet. As predicted, when Mara is away, the entity shoots down Ingvar with the hunting weapon that belonged to Ingvar himself, revealing itself to be a ram-human hybrid. An intriguing aspect of this scene is that we don’t actually see the adult hybrid fire the rifle.
Whatever the case may be, it appears that we have finally met the child’s biological father, who is not exactly a warm and fuzzy person. After all, he was the one who recently slaughtered the family’s beloved dog. Ingvar’s final moments are spent witnessing the “Ram Man,” or nature’s vengeance, steal Ada away from him.
“Don’t bother the elves, granny used to say. Every living thing, both visible and invisible, deserves our attention “commented Rapace to Inverse. “Something in me has always been able to perceive things that do not physically exist. And if you go too far and steal what does not belong to you, Mother Nature will retaliate. They’ll seek revenge and track you down.”
Lamb’s final shot is of Maria, stunned and alone in the forest, looking directly into the camera before closing her tearful eyes. Definitely a dreamlike experience — or was it? In fact, Jóhannsson said that the Ram Man was inspired by a dream at a post-screening Q&A at New York’s Scandinavian House.
Jóhannsson emphasized during the Q&A, “It’s not a joke.” Extremely large rams devoured polar bears in this story.
This leads us to question if Ada the lamb-human hybrid actually existed or was merely an expression of Ada’s desire to be a parent. “I want to leave everything out in the air, but everything that happened on the set of the film is accurate.
Unlike some fictional characters, [Ada] exists in the real world “, Jóhannsson said to Variety. For the sake of the spectators, she had to be.