This is one piece in a collection of 10 film reviews submitted by this year’s New Wave Jury members at Cornwall Film Festival 2021. The collection tackles recent films that stood out as radical works of filmmaking. You can read the other reviews here.
I have not gone completely blind into a film for a long while, so Vladimir Jóhannsson's Lamb (2021) surprised me in many ways. Is the film a horror? Erm - a little. The score had the faintest sense of tension and the gruesome ending would suggest that the film is a horror but throughout the film, I thought it leaned toward more of a family drama.
The most beautiful and quiet moments were with María and Ada, and their connection to each other which makes their relationship very unique. But as you realise what María goes through to keep this child, you feel uneasy, yet you do not know why. Throughout this film, Jóhannsson neither describes nor tells you exactly how or why this is happening, and this is something I liked to an extent, letting my mind wonder about the meaning of it all.
The main surprise in this film was this odd yet beautifully CGI’d lamb-human hybrid and the way Jóhannsson established the twist. As with most of the film, he subtly showed this weird creation like it was not meant to happen, almost like a wrong take in the film. This could also be a cultural difference, as those familiar with Icelandic folklore would not need any additional information or context, whilst international audiences may not have much of a clue.
The way Jóhannsson depicted the story was brave and you could say it was almost confusing for some. Watching Lamb changed the way I, as a filmmaker, understood twists. It taught me that you don’t need an over-dramatic pan-down to establish the reveal, instead you can do it subtly. I hope more people go watch Lamb. It’s a film that changed my approach to making films whilst helping me reevaluate my choices when it comes to watching film trailers - I have to try some more blind watches.