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Lamb


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🎙️ EPISODE 450: 04.21.22 starts around ~19:43

Lamb begins with a bunch of wild black stallions running through the majestic icelandic fog. And I'm like, "Hey I thought this was a movie called 'LAMB' not 'STALLION'!" It's an incredibly lovely shot and basically sums up this movie in a nutshell: stoic beauty is not necessarily a substitute for deeper philosophical meaning. We never see these horses again. At its core, Lamb is made up of a collection of amazing pieces like this that don't totally add up for a variety of reasons. But there's enough subtle Act 2 twists and a pretty gnarly WTF ending which end up salvaging the experience.
I love a challenging film, but I don't love it when it feels like the work is toying with its audience (even if — as I believe to be the case here — its intentions are pure). There is a painful 20+ gap between the birth of the hybrid lamb-human child and its visual reveal to the audience. But it i sn't so much the being coy with the reveal that is the issue (I understand that device); it's the total lack of reaction on the part of our human stand-ins. These parents take this event in stride and they do so wordlessly. The suspension of disbelief that this creature exists isn't the issue — we know we're watching a fantastical movie — it's the lack of emotion from these people that creates the dissonance. Uh, sure this thing is cute and all, but it's also insanely weird. Right? Luckily, the dad's wayward brother, Uncle Peter, arrives to scratch this itch.

The idea that this couple was still grieving the loss of their own human child (also named Ada, as we see her gravemarker at onset of the third act) is heavily implied but never dissected. Grief is a tricky thing, and it can lead an otherwise normal man and wife to adopting a hybrid lamb-human child as their own and giving it the same name of their dead daughter. This is the place you'll need to get to if you want to fully accept Lamb into your heart. And I struggled to get there.

There's also a theme of acceptance, of not apologizing for where and how you put your love and affection. Ada 2.0 could have just as easily been an adopted kid with major disabilities. But she wasn't. She was a hybrid lamb-human child. This, just as with the theme of grief, is blown to pieces by the end of the film. I greatly appreciated this challenging ending. Even if, like those wild black stallions, the inclusion of Ram Man was for "well this looks fucking cool, doesn't it?" reasons and little else. Because, guess what? It did look fucking cool. How does it jive with the film's greater themes? What are we supposed to feel? I think they place those decisions in the minds of the audience. And it's the best choice first-time director/co-writer Valdimar Jóhannsson makes.

CHRONOLOGICALLY
EPISODE 450A - (YOU ARE HERE) - EPISODE 450C ⫸

Lamb (Icelandic: Dýrið, "The animal") is a 2021 folk horror film directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sjón. An international co-production between Iceland, Sweden and Poland, the film stars Noomi Rapace, and marks Valdimar Jóhannsson's feature-length directorial debut. Rapace and Béla Tarr act as executive producers. After premiering at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, it was selected as the Icelandic entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. It was released on September 24, 2021.

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