Sitges Festival Day 2: A different silence from the lambs, ‘Lamb’ by Valdimar Jóhannsson

The Icelandic film ‘Lamb’, after passing through Cannes, brings to Sitges its stealthy and gloomy look at the fantastic. Also in competition, we enjoyed the beast with ‘In the Earth’ by Ben Wheatley and ‘The trip’ by Tommy Wirkola.

Presented at the last edition of the Cannes Film Festival, it was one of the most striking in the Un Certain Regard section. He distributes A24 -elevated horror warning- and directs the Icelandic filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson, an all-rounder of the production teams in Iceland, every time a ‘major’ travels to the frozen country to shoot a blockbuster (the list of films and series in the which accredited figure is fireworks): Game of Thrones, Flags of our fathers, Prometheus, Fast & Furious 8, Rogue One, Batman Begins … he, for his part, is clear about it -I was able to interview him when he left Lamb’s pass- and he considers Béla Tarr his master and his aesthetic devotion is slow cinema. Which gives us two clear clues about his character: he is a born worker, a filmmaker who thinks principally in pictures and whose narrative runs slowly and silently making the fantastic dimension of his story grow until it permeates every corner of the frame. Said that: Lamb I liked it a lot. Let’s go with her.

A couple (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) live isolated in the mountains taking care of their small sheep and lamb farm. The day to day passes by feeding them, taking care of them, helping them to have babies. They are simple people, who love each other and do not need many words to show it. The irruption of the fantastic in their little lives will make it in the form of an impossible creature – do not destroy it before you see the film – which, instead of weakening the couple, on the contrary, they make their love reproduce, making that Lamb possess a delicate and exciting balance between horror and love that is the key to its success. In its own way, Jóhannsson’s film tells us how to achieve happiness through the unfathomable designs of a God who completely ignores us. How the fantastic is able to open new doors to our lives, even if they also bring death and redemption. AND Lamb exposes the drama with the minimum elements necessary to make the incredible believable.

For Ben Wheatley, who had always been our goodfella, a good part of the critics (if not all) we swelled to cakes when he hired Netflix to sketch his remake of Rebecca (1940). The English filmmaker, possessor of a career always linked to genre cinema -thriller, terror, sci-fi, criminal, whatever A field in England (2013) is -, had conquered our freaking hearts thanks to macabre jokes like Turistas (2012) or to adapt the unadaptable (like Cronenberg) in an approach to the universe of JG Ballard in High-Rise (2015). So maybe we got out of hand when we decided to punish him for that adored tripe that was Rebeca (2020). Point for him, who raised enough money and energy to come back with a delicious madness like In the Earth, pure Wheatley from head to toe (he has also written the script), in a piece of horror that is immediately bathed in folk-horror, as in the juiciest gore or lysergic abstraction that I would twin him with Peter Strickland. In his new film Wheatley portrays a post-pandemic world, with scientists, rangers and shamans lost in an unhealthy forest trying to communicate with the roots of the trees. The two protagonists – successful and hard-working Joel Fry and Ellora Torchia – plunge into a terror as vivid as it is telluric, where practical evil has a mouth and eyes, but truly dangerous evil is as elusive as the toxic fog that appears in a quantity of the movie. In the Earth thus becomes a fundamental anti-Fundamelist film. A terrifying enjoyment not without humor that, at the end, with all its abstractive final shot, one cannot help but feel the happiness of someone who has been reunited with a good friend. And also happy to live in the city and not in a forest of the devil subjected to the unhealthy forces of nature.

We close with a full-blown entertainment: comedy-gore The journey of the Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola – the wacko who dislocated our jaws with laughter in the Nazi Zombies saga (the second even better than the first) -. Wirkola repeats with Noomi Rapace, they had already worked together on Seven Sisters (2017) -, and hand in hand with Netflix gives us a violent and bloody rampage with the ‘bad taste’ that Peter Jackson once had. A couple that hates each other to death – it’s not a metaphor – go from trying to gouge out their eyes to defending themselves from a trio of murderous dicks who have just escaped from jail. What starts as War of the Rose (1989) ends up becoming a feast of dismemberments, shots in the genitals, assaults and gut shredding several that the public in Sitges received with stomach aches from laughing so much (Joaquín Reyes, the officer’s jury, the one who laughed the most). Damn it comes to Sitges for these things.