HrútarSynopsis: In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years have to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep.


Hrútar 7.5

eyelights: the scenery. its touching finale.
eyesores: the lazy ending.

“Rams? There a movie called ‘Rams’ playing tonight?”, I wondered incredulously as I looked at a picture of a grey-haired, bearded dude being stared down by a male sheep in the local listings. My friends and I were looking for a movie to congregate at, and there wasn’t much out there.

So ‘Rams’ it was.

‘Hrútar’ is an Icelandic motion picture about two sheep farming brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years – their main means of communication are written notes passed back and forth by their eager dog. It focuses on the repercussions of an epidemic that wipes out their whole stock.

Their livelihood decimated, and resentment growing between them, the aging brothers have to find a way to bury the hatchet and move on if they want to survive. A solid drama with light touches of comedy, ‘Hrútar’ was Iceland’s submission to the 2016 Academy Awards.

I liked the movie. What is there not to like? The script was well-written, the performances were rock solid, the picture flowed like Icelandic breeze. And it’s got sheep in it. Who could ask for anything more? But I merely liked it: at no point was I emotionally involved with any of it.

Meanwhile, the crowd, which had surprisingly filled a cinema that frequently plays half empty, didn’t seem to know what to make of it for some reason. For instance, people laughed in moments or at things that weren’t intended to be funny, like the sight of one of the obese brothers, buck-naked.

And they reacted strongly to the ending, with some displeasure (One person even said “That sucks!” out loud, while the man next to me said that he hoped that at least my popcorn was good). Funny, because I thought the ending was the best part, and really didn’t think the movie was that bad.

Drab, yes, but not bad.

Mind you, the ending was pretty improbable. Due to the risk of infection and their suspicions about the brothers, the veterinary association that had been inspecting everyone’s flocks decide to search the environs of the brothers’ farms for sheep, which Gummi has moved to his brother’s house.

Makes sense.

Except that, despite being a half-dozen inspectors and calling in for assistance, they don’t search every single building there – instead, they decide to scope out the mountains. And that’s despite evidence that Gummi had initially put them inside his house – so anything was possible!

And yet it didn’t even occur to them that the sheep might now be in Kiddi’s house.

So the brothers got off Scott free.

But then one of the inspectors shows up at Gummi’s house at an inauspicious moment and Kiddi knocks him out with a shovel. Was there no one else with him? Where was everyone else in his contingent? And when the brothers took the sheep out and left with them, why didn’t anyone see them?

Where had everybody gone?

Seriously, given the barren landscape, someone on that team would surely have seen the two men and their flock from some vantage point, somewhere.

But not.

Hmph… that was too easy.

Still, I thought ‘Hrútar’ was nonetheless a well-made and enjoyable picture. I don’t understand why the crowd reacted the way that it did. Conversely, I also don’t understand why it was Iceland’s entry for the Academy Awards and why it was nominated for and won so many awards.

Someone obviously can’t separate the sheep from the goats.

(Hmmm… could it be me?)

Date of viewing: February 27, 2016

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