Review: Rams

HRUTAR_RAMS_StillUp in the cold, remote and exceptionally striking hills of Iceland, feuding sheep farming brothers Gummi and Kiddi set off with their prize specimens in tow to the village’s prestigious ram competition. What follows is an intense, bitter-sweet story of sibling rivalry and an epidemic that threatens their very way of life in this brilliant drama full of sombreness, laughs, big knitted sweaters and, of course, sheep!

The characters of Gummi and Kiddi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theódór Júlíusson) certainly steal the show, in a film with little dialogue they say more with their gestures, grunts and beard twinges than could be truly said in words. This is wonderfully portrayed with a cold face and a finger point the first time we see the brothers interact. Much like the sheep they love and care for you don’t truly sense their thoughts, feelings and intentions unless you look closely.

The brothers very much play a part of the landscape and either through choice or by circumstance they have slowly grown to represent the harsh land that provides them their livelyhood; their weather-worn grey sweaters, their hard faces, their thick bushy facial hair. Indeed the landscape its self plays a starring role in this film, it is cold, harsh and bitter, but not without moments of brightness and beauty; yet another parrelel between the two brothers. As the film goes on you will soon see how the weather sculpts these brothers relationship.

What really stood out for me with this film was the storytelling. Director and writer Grímur Hákonarson doesn’t take the audience by the hand and shove all the exposition in their faces, as so many directors feel inclined to do nowadays, instead it is left to us to discover. With of course the biggest question being why have these two brothers refused to speak to one another in 40 years despite dwelling an actual stones throw from one another? Piece by piece we discover the history and the complexities behind the brothers all the way up until the point the story breaks into it’s very powerful conclusion.

For those of us who grew up in a rural environment will certainly feel a lot of connection to the areas scrapie outbreak and Hákonarson does an excellent job at portraying the farmers struggles. I grew up in a village up in the Pennines near Huddersfield and remember well the devastation of the ‘foot and mouth’ disease. I think for many in the cities or suburbs foot and mouth disease was just a funny name for a seemingly consequence-less outbreak given that beef supply didn’t go down, but for local farmers they may as well have had their farms burned down as cattle were slaughtered and huge financial losses inevitably followed; some of whom never recovered at all.

In a nutshell Rams is a simply excellent film. It is a very primal comedy-drama that showcases the deep humanity that dwells in isolated lands. It will have you laughing out loud then holding back tears and all the while completely griped. Maybe for some it could be seen as a film that requires a little patience but for me it had me right from the start! Definitely my favourite film so far this year.



Pop-Up Dreams

So last night I had great trouble sleeping; one of those nights where I seemed to be constantly waking up from a light sleep to keep checking my watch in complete bewilderment that it still wasn’t the morning yet and it didn’t feel like I’d slept at all. But insomnia aside I did also have a rather vivid and quite spectacular dream of an amazing pop-up cinema experience…

My dream had me sat one night on the lawn in Deans Park in York, Deans Park is the small and rather lovely park at the side of York Minster. I remember being sat there on the lawn seemingly completely alone and at first feeling overwhelming melancholy, but then something fantastical occurred! On the side of the minster a screen suddenly unravelled and behind me from some building or another came a bright white light that shone onto it and out of no where I was sudden sat with warm grass between my toes watching what appeared to be The Name of the Rose on the side of York Minster! A very aptly religious themed film for one of England’s most iconic religious monuments.

That dream stuck with me this afternoon and it got me thinking if money were no option what would be my fantasy pop-up cinema experience?

For those of you who have never come across the term, the concept of ‘pop-up cinema’ is pretty self explanatory. It’s a group of film fanatics or events organisers who take the film projector away from it’s natural habit of the theatre and out into the big, wild world outside of the picture house. Pop up cinemas can occur anywhere from somewhere as humble as a pub or a friend’s garden to much larger scale ‘theatres’ in abandoned train stations, old WWII air raid shelters or aircraft hangers!

My personal favourite pop-up experience was at the Abandon Normal Devices art and film festival in Manchester during August 2012.

Mad Max 2 at the AMD Festival

The Empire Drive-In team from the US built up a cinema made out of old broken down cars and huge shipping containers. I watched Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior whilst sat on an old abandoned car. It was such a fantastic film to suit the rusty aesthetic of the cinema, as well as a brilliant homage to old style American Drive-Ins.

Speaking of idealistic themes from popup cinema I always come think back to this fantastic image of some cinema goers floating along in rubber rings watching Jaws!

We’re gonna need a bigger, erm, rubber dinghy flotilla?

This is exactly what I love about good pop up cinema, it’s a special kind of experience where the cinema and environment its self plays a part in the atmosphere of the film. I bet there weren’t many feet dangling in the water after the halfway point of this film!

Whilst pop-up is growing in popularity it is still quite an underground niche.  Smaller scale events are becoming more frequent but the more ambitious and grandiose pop-ups usually only follow suit alongside arts festivals and special occasion events. The problem being the cost involved to put on such large scale events, not to mention the willingness to get local Council’s or property owners on board plus numerous health and safety concerns. Indeed a large pop up event as part of the International Festival 2013 at the ‘ghost station’ Mayfield Depot in Manchester had to be cancelled over increasing concerns over the security and condition of the old building.

What then would be my dream pop-up experience?

After thinking long and hard about this I decided on a screening of La Haine. Those of you who have seen this exceptional French film will know it is a hard hitting drama about social tensions, crime and inequality in Paris and portrays a lot of contrasts between the idealistic lights of the historic city centre to the dark, dangerous streets of the city’s ghettos; a location you won’t see on any postcards. Indeed there is a brilliant and powerful scene where the protagonists turn their backs on the city skyline and the Eiffel Tower and the lights blink out. So that’s what I’d do, perhaps it’s my inner rebellious Sociology graduate inside me but I love the idea of making a social statement with this film, screen it on the Eiffel Tower, switch off the lights at the end of the film.
Perhaps I’m dreaming, but watch this space if I ever become super-villain rich…

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“The World is Ours” a great motto for pop-up cinema enthusiasts

The Clip Show: Police Squad visit The Hospital

I have a massive soft spot for a good old tongue-in-cheek spoof film and there are no finer examples than 1988’s stupidly hilarious The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

Back during my early 90s in the Furnival household one of our most popular VHS’s was a tape of Naked Gun that my dad had recorded off the TV. I loved it then for the perfect slapstick timing and general silliness, and I love it now, well for both of these reasons still, but with the added bonus of now being able to understand all of the many double entendres!

It’s because of this that I was very sad to hear of the passing of George Kennedy who came to fame as Dragline Cool Hand Luke and later as Frank Drebin’s sidekick and best friend Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series.

So as a tribute to George, and of course the brilliant Leslie Nielson who we lost in 2010, here is one of my favourite clips from Naked Gun where the boys go visit Nordberg, played by OJ Simpson (who is still alive but his career died along time ago!) in ‘The Hospital’.

It’s sad to think that both of these actors have now passed on. I promise you that I won’t rest for one minute in making sure these fine men are honoured… now let’s grab a bite to eat.