Perhaps the oldest conflict in the history of our existence is that of man vs. nature; the depressing expectation that we as a species have been exploiting too much of a good thing to the point in will eventually come back to bite us in the ass. Whether it be the climate, the ecosystems or other living creatures, humanity has left a less-than-proud mark on the world, and if karma is a thing it may certainly catch up to us. We are but guests on a world that, one day, will kick us out after overstaying our welcome. It’s sobering to think about, any many films over the years have taken it upon themselves to best interpret this growing concern into a narrative that can sometimes be captivating.
But this film has a half-lamb-half-human child in a sweater, so it already has the makings of being the best film of the century.
Lamb is a peculiar take on humanity’s relationship with nature, as well as grief and our attempts to fill the void. Improperly advertised as a horror film when in actuality its more of an absurdist drama with a small handful of disturbing moments. Its greater message tends to get lost under seemingly inconsequential plot points and it certainly takes its time in its indirect storytelling, but underneath it all is a surprisingly soothing if not depressing story of nature and the parental experience.
Maria and Ingvar live in the snowcapped countryside of Iceland on an isolated farm. An undeniable gloom hangs over the couple, although the details of said sorrow are never explicitly stated. Yet, their shuffling through their daily duties and their melancholy discussion about time travel hints that the couple has seen better days. Fate takes a turn one day when one of their sheep gives birth to a baby with the head of a lamb and the body of a human child. Rather than being horrified and alerting the media like I’m sure most of us would do, the couple see this as an opportunity for happiness. Affectionately naming the child Ada, the couple raise her as their own as she grows from infant to young child. However, their newfound joy hides a more serious concern, as Ada’s origin slowly creeps towards upending the couples happiness in an act of revenge.
Like I said before, this is a film that the trailers did a disservice to, advertising it as a horror film when its terrifying moments are few and far between. There’s an underlying horror to it of course; the movie is about human/animal hybrids after all, but an expectation was set that will certainly disappoint many. Much of the film centers around the the couple’s adjustment to parenthood and the development of their unquestionable love towards Ada. Despite its absurd premise, the film never solely makes it the focus. It even takes a while before the film reveals the reasoning behind the couples intrigued attraction to the child. Once their reasoning becomes apparent we are already past the point of questioning and are accepting of what is already obvious: a genuine love for a creature that fills the hole of another. It may not be the exact same shape, but its enough to save what seems to be a strained relationship. This is made all the more believable by subtle yet not-understated performances from our leads, who tell just enough of the story through their glances and soft spoken dialogue. The emotions are so prominent that you never question the impact that Ada’s arrival has on the couple.
Set in the beautifully haunting mountains of Iceland, the terrain never lets you forget the sense of something darker hiding in the mist. Even in a land of prolonged daylight, the cinematography is able to produce an air of mystery through its framing of the vast countryside as a setting of endless opportunity, both good and bad. Its utilization of framing animals like people, settling on their reactions, does a great job at maintaining that uneasiness while the humans are enveloped by their emotional bliss. They know something is up and never lets you forget that. Meanwhile, the presentation of the family is done in earnest. The sight of their lamb baby is never not funny, and the film certainly knows that, but it still manages to play it genuinely serious. But its this blend of genres that never overstep one another that what makes the film feel unique.
While the most obvious theme present is parental grief, there’s the aforementioned connection to nature coming to take back what is theirs. Don’t forget, Ada is born of a sheep mother, who remains emotionally attached to Ada despite Maria’s newly possessive nature. This feud eventually boils over into a furious moment of anger that sets in motion the looming threat that occurs behind the scenes. It may not become as clear until the very end, but there is a price to paid. As nature will one day reclaim the planet long after we’re gone and done harvesting it, a haunting force of nature too comes to collect from the family. It’s a concept that’s been illustrated countless times, including films from this year like Gunda and Gaia, and although its hard to argue that Lamb has taken a standout approach to this message, the message itself is fairly surface level. At the end of the day it doesn’t exactly turn the conversation on its head, and it even takes a backseat to other themes through most of the film in my opinion. Which is a shame, as even though its an original blend of soothing comfort and uneasy dread, it doesn’t exactly push the envelope enough to propel itself to greatness.
A slow burn by its very definition, Lamb‘s pacing and lack of straightforwardness is sure to deter many, especially if you go in after watching the trailer. While not the mind-bending horror I may have anticipated, its nonetheless a delightful surprise that takes a tried and true theme and adds its own special spin to it. Its delicate and earnest with much to say, even if what its saying isn’t as ponderous as I was anticipating. If it can truly be considered a horror film, its one I wouldn’t mind watching to fall asleep (and I mean that as a compliment). If there’s any takeaway to have from this, its that A24 is definitely building towards an Avengers-style crossover with all their adorable animal stars (Black Philip, the First Cow, etc.)
The Nordic Peninsula has given us many exports, like ABBA and Bjork. But for this drink, we’ll be showcasing its most popular alcoholic spirit: aquavit (or akavit). Essentially its a vodka-type drink that has been infused with several botanical herbs, giving it a uniquely delicious taste. This spirit is showcased in the Nordic Winter, a hybrid of two cocktails; the bitter Nordic Summer and the warm and soothing Hot Toddy. The combination is bittersweet, relaxing and unique. Pour yourself a mug, snuggle up to your lamb/human abomination, and settle in for the winter.
- 1.5oz aquavit
- 1oz aperol
- 1oz lime juice
- 2-3 teaspoons of honey
- 1/2 cup water
- Garnish: Flower
- In a saucepan or teapot, bring the water to a simmer. Once heated, transfer to mug or other heat-safe glass.
- Add the ingredients to the water. Stir the honey in until it dissolves in the mixture.
- Garnish with flower
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