In the snowbound, bleak, and beautiful valley of the Icelandic yarn Rams, two brothers - bearded, burly, taciturn men - tend to their sheep. Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) sees to his flock of woolly prizewinners, Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) to his.

The two farms are side by side, but the brothers haven't talked to each other in decades. Solitary, holding some fierce grudge, each goes about his business.

And then, disaster: A deadly disease has infected the stock of a neighboring farm. The authorities determine that all of the sheep in the area, including the rare breed that Gummi and Kiddi raise, must be killed to contain the outbreak.

That's the setup for Grímur Hákonarson's wry, dry tale of sibling rivalry and sibling bonding, a tale told with a bracing mix of the biblically tragic and the comically deadpan.

Winner of the Un Certain Regard award at last year's Cannes festival, Rams frames its pair of bitter protagonists against the harsh but majestic landscapes of northern Iceland - wide, wintry sky, treeless hills, the farmhouses with their odd patches of color nestled in the drifts.

Sigurjónsson, keen-eyed and projecting both pride and worry, has the kind of face a camera loves. Júlíusson's Kiddi is rough-hewn, a ball of simmering rage. If the brothers are forced to communicate, Gummi pens a note and gives it to his trusty border collie to deliver.

Each man wears a heavy, hand-knit sweater - pretty much everyone in the movie does, save the government officials who come calling to make certain that the sheep have been culled. But have these animals - the source of not just a livelihood, but of purpose in the brothers' lives - been exterminated?

The film, resonant and surprisingly affecting, is called Rams, isn't it?



Directed by Grímur Hákonarson. With Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, and Charlotte Bøving.
In Icelandic with subtitles.
Distributed by Cohen Media.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, nudity, adult themes).
Playing at: Bryn Mawr Film Institute.