On a farm in rural Iceland, Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) visits his brother Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason). Expecting to have lunch with Ingvar and his wife, Maria (Noomi Rapace), he is puzzled by a third guest at the table. “What the fuck is this is it?” he asks. Audiences might just ask the same throughout Icelandic filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson’s fun and bizarre debut feature.
In the first act, Ingvar and Maria, a hot hipster couple, deliver a lamb. A cut on their wondering faces tells us that this creature is… different. They name her Ada and declare her a blessing. Jóhannsson’s film isn’t quite horror, although it does flirt with genre motifs. There’s the constant sense of danger lurking in the frozen depths of the nearby lake, or right behind the postcard-perfect mountain looming over their home. Maria has frightening dreams of curly-horned rams with sinister, glowing eyes; the sheep that gave birth to Ada waits stubbornly outside her bedroom window. Inside, Maria swaddles the lamb in a blanket, cooing and singing to put it to sleep. In one adorable scene, the couple bathe together. When Ada disappears, she goes wild with fear and motherly rage.
A yellow cable-knit cardigan becomes a heartbreaking talisman, much like Nicolas Roeg’s red raincoat don’t look now. Jóhannsson teases the possibility of a monster, but waits to reveal his hand. When he does, there’s more than a touch of gallows humor. I burst out laughing at his audacity and had nightmares later.