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Echoes of Innocence: The Eschatological Morality of the Lamb

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

The film "Lamb" (2021) serves as a cornerstone in the realm of arthouse cinema and could shape the future landscape of film. This work stands apart from the conventional programming of cinemas catering to a general audience, instead focusing on the pursuit of quality and highlighting aspects beyond mere entertainment, such as artistic value, experimentation with the cinematic language, and social engagement.

"Lamb," the debut film by Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson, strides in this direction, perhaps influenced by the global pandemic that pushed towards creative seclusion. The film's stylistic choices center on expansive settings, extended shots, and lingering still frames—elements that appear to have eluded contemporary filmography. Jóhannsson revives this stylistic signature, immersing the audience in the desolate majesties of the Icelandic landscape, with its meadows and sharp-peaked mountains, perennially crowned in snow.

The unique setting within a farm provides the backdrop for the protagonism of Marìa, portrayed by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, the wife of Ingvar (Icelandic actor Hilmir Snær Guðnason). The pivotal event is the birth of a lamb with human-like features during a birth assisted by the couple. The arrival of the husband's brother, Pétur, adds further nuances to the plot without distorting its essence; instead, it complements the psychological portrayal of Marìa and leaves room for an interpretive ending.

The dynamic between the two brothers, Ingvar and Pétur, emerges in contrast, but not in antagonism. Each is called to embody a distinct role: Ingvar anchors his life to family, while the externally arriving Pétur carries an aura of turbulence. The central figure is Marìa, whose evocative name reflects her vulnerability. The very title of the film, "Lamb," evokes religious connotations of sacrifice and condition, mirroring Marìa's struggle to balance familial passions. The direction explores a spirited and determined soul, caught between impulses and higher motivations, striving to sublimate instinct into self-control and preservation.

Lamb - Valdimar Johannsson (2021)
Lamb - Valdimar Johannsson (2021)

Nature is a temple, where living columns often hint at confusing words; man walks through it, through forests of symbols that watch him with familiar glances. - Charles Baudelaire -

This portrayal recalls ancient folk legends of Northern Europe, where humans are at the mercy of a sovereign Nature they cannot tame. It reveals the tenderness and human determination to fill the void within the couple's past, alongside the potent force of Nature that shatters illusions of strength, logic, and human reason, punishing arrogance.

Ultimately, "Lamb" transcends common beliefs and delves into an eschatological moral, intertwining the human spirit and animal innocence. The focal point revolves around the desire for parenthood and the perseverance within it—an instinct shared by both humans and animals.

The human-like lamb, an embodiment of resurging energy, reminds us of our intrinsic connection, yet its purity cannot disentangle nature and destiny. Those who seek to restore equilibrium find themselves confronting a reality dictated by Nature, thus initiating a new cycle of life wherein Nature reaffirms its dominion.

The director's visual poetry, combined with words and silences reflecting Nature within the human soul, gives rise to an original and unique work. The film examines the psychological profiles of characters and their human condition, juxtaposed with a Nature that can be simultaneously hostile and friendly.



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