Archive for the ‘Rams (2016)’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:32:37

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this film is also available for this title.

Title

“Conflicts between neighbors are very common in the countryside in Iceland.  Personally I know of many instances where people living side by side fall out and still have not spoken a word to each other many decades afterwards.  Often they even forget why they are enemies in the first place.  Icelanders are stubborn and autonomous people, they want to stand on their own two feet and they distrust everything that comes from the outside.  There’s a streak of independent thinking that sometimes goes beyond all logic…

… It’s a very tragic state of affairs when people are living in very isolated places, part of very small communities, but can’t speak to their closest neighbor.  And at the same time I find this situation quite comical.” -Grímur Hákonarson(Press Book)

Dry humor is peppered liberally throughout the length of Rams, and these comedic elements element keep the viewer interested in a story that might have otherwise been to recondite to engage the average viewer. However, it is the dramatic and somewhat suspenseful nature of this unusual story that makes the largest impression on its audience.

The story is really rather simple. In a secluded valley in Iceland, Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their sheep.  Their ancestral sheep-stock is considered one of the country’s best and the two brothers are repeatedly awarded for their prized rams who carry an ancient lineage.  Although they share the land and a way of life, Gummi and Kiddi have not spoken to each other in four decades.

When a lethal disease called “Scrapie” suddenly infects Kiddi’s sheep, the entire valley comes under threat.  The authorities decide to cull all the animals in the area to contain the outbreak. This is a near death sentence for the farmers, whose sheep are their main source of income, and many abandon their land.

Apparently, Grímur Hákonarson (the film’s writer and director) had first-hand knowledge about the disease that his plot hinges upon.

“Scrapie (BSE) is the most harmful disease the Icelandic countryside has ever had to face.  It’s an incurable virus that attacks the brains and spinal cords of sheep and is highly contagious.  The disease originally spread to Iceland through British sheep that arrived in the late 19th century.  So far it has not been possible to eradicate it completely.  This winter we saw at least three cases of scrapie in Northwest Iceland, so it’s very current and still scares people.  I know farmers who have suffered because of scrapie and I know the mental trauma that results when the entire stock needs to be slaughtered…

… Scrapie infected my niece’s sheep stock and it was a big emotional shock for her and her husband.  I experienced firsthand how this affected them psychologically… I started to think how it would feel for someone who lives alone, and who only has sheep, to be forced to slaughter an entire stock.” -Grímur Hákonarson(Press Book)

None of this should lead anyone to believe that the two brothers are willing to give up their land, their livelihood, and their heritage without a fight. Each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits.  As the authorities close in, the brothers will need to come together to save the special breed passed down for generations, and themselves, from extinction.

None of this really hints at the sort of cinematic experience that one can expect from Rams. Hákonarson has a way of lulling his audience into an easy state of amusement. One watches the film without realizing that they are being led down a dark alley… and there are many interesting things down this alley, but some of these things have sharp teeth. I believe that Tom McCarthy (director of Spotlight) said it better: “At first it charmed me and then it snuck up and punched me in the gut emotionally. That doesn’t happen a lot. It really caught me off guard.”

This one is really worth checking out if you haven’t already. It is a nice alternative to all of the comic book films floating around.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with a slightly altered version of the film’s one sheet artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a chapter menu and film credits. The pages of this booklet is illustrated with various stills and screenshots from the film.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score. They are attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Groups remarkably crisp image transfer showcases an exceptional level of detail with nice color balancing and appropriate contrast levels. Blacks are reasonably rich without seeming to crush detail, and digital anomalies never become a problem. This seems to be a relatively accurate reproduction of the HD source (though this reviewer didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing the film in theatres).

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Sound Quality: 

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio mix isn’t particularly dynamic, but it certainly serves the film admirably. The subtle scoring has room to breathe, and dialogue is always clear and appropriately mixed. Meanwhile, the sheep farm ambience is appropriately placed in the mix.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Wrestling (A Short Film by Grímur Hákonarson)(22:26)

Wrestling is Hákonarson’s second short film. It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in 2007 and went on to win 25 festival prizes around the world. It is also one of the most successful short films from Iceland. The story concerns two gay wrestlers who carry on a secret relationship with one another but might be facing the end of their affair. One’s enjoyment of this film will probably depend as much upon their personal feelings about the subject matter as any aesthetic tastes.

It is always nice to have a director’s early short efforts included in a Blu-ray package. It is too bad that this doesn’t happen more often.

Interview with Grímur Hákonarson (Director) – (04:44)

This is merely a short promotional piece. Don’t expect a comprehensive look into the making of Rams or even a proper discussion about the film. Instead we are shown an edited compilation of interview clips and footage from the film (most of which was included in the trailer). The information provided is interesting but not particularly enlightening.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

A film’s theatrical trailer is always an essential Blu-ray ingredient, and it is especially interesting to see how Rams was marketed to American audiences.

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Final Words:

This eccentric film should be enjoyable viewing for anyone who loves offbeat cinema, and Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray release is the perfect way to experience it.

Review by: Devon Powell

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