Wed. Jul 24th, 2024


Though its flow is slow but poetic, Lamb‘s visual design effectively draws the audience into its world of feelings. Set in a farmhouse in the mountains, with vast prairies, gray skies stretching, and hills perpetually covered in fog, the director creates an uncomfortable yet captivating atmosphere.

The film successfully employs its dark “colors” and atmospheric environment to fulfill its function. However, this tone can be discomforting for many viewers. As the two central characters, Maria and Ingvar, appear before the audience, the film immerses them in a vacuum of emotion. It is not a passionate experience but rather an icy one, with shades of absurdism common in 2021 films, including themes of giving birth to machine children and more.

Drawing inspiration from Icelandic folklore, Lamb takes the oddity even further by presenting a half-human baby lamb. This unique premise leads the audience to ponder the various events and discussions that will unfold as a couple adopts such a hybrid baby. Under the wing of A24, films from lesser-known distributors manage to pack many events into one narrative.

For many viewers, A24 films serve as mandatory watches when seeking an intense and immersive experience. The movie scenes skillfully capture the essence of the characters’ lives, portraying slices of life that evoke emotions from the audience.


Lamb becomes a film with a complex setup due to the blessing of terror. The arrangement of narrative events is not extensive, considering it is a short story. Especially in terms of dialogue, the film could easily pass as an anthology episode of a folklore horror series like Yamishibai, Dekalog, or any of Junji Ito’s works.

On the other hand, the film rushes straight into the center of the conflict but also takes its time to linger, ensuring the audience feels all the emotional intentions. It is essential to be honest and never explicitly mention the theme, relying on the climax of Maria’s unpleasant past incident to convey the message. In short, the film informs the audience through “unclear” dialogue, where Maria and Ingvar discuss miracles or doom. These interactions make most of the audience literate with very-real scenes.

For example, when Maria and Ingvar help a lamb give birth, Ingvar holds the lamb’s body while Maria pulls the child’s head sticking out behind the lamb’s mother. This moment is not one of joy but rather an intense and emotional experience that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.


When the story reaches its climax, lambs give birth, leaving Maria and Ingvar in awe. The film brilliantly refrains from explicitly narrating the moment when Maria brings the baby lamb into the house. Instead, the audience witnesses the process of Maria bathing the sheep in the bathtub, putting it to sleep in the cot, and wrapping it in a blanket, all without any strange or tingling sensation. The film takes its time to build up the significance of the lamb and the couple’s protective instincts.

As the mama lamb bleeds and is chased away, the couple’s panic and anxiety intensify when the lamb suddenly disappears from the house. They search outside but never think to look for the sheep. The film subtly hints at the couple’s bad memories connected to the child, allowing a new reality to emerge in the next chapter of the story.

When Ingvar’s brother, Petur, arrives at the house, a confrontational drama unfolds, revealing a shocking yet ridiculous encounter. The film masterfully plays with the audience’s emotions throughout the nearly two magical hours.

As all four characters are present in the house, the narrative becomes more complex, delving into the existence and world of the story. While not true, Maria and Ingvar proudly challenge Petur’s understanding, creating an intriguing dynamic. The idea of Ingvar cheating on the sheep is somewhat absurd, considering they have no neighbors or anything of the sort.


In the story, Ada the lamb becomes a figure akin to a minotaur, symbolizing death in Greek legend. However, other interpretations suggest that Ada represents a half-human, half-animal being, acting as a god in their respective countries’ beliefs. For instance, in Islam, Ibrahim was tested by Allah and prepared to sacrifice his only son, Ismail, who was replaced by a goat. In Christianity, Ada symbolizes a bible, representing the wonders of God and embodying innocence and purity.

With all these varied symbolism, Lamb, at its core, is a tragic tale. It is marketed as horror and a blessing of terror, but its horrors go beyond mere ghosts, jump scares, or serial killers. The horror in the film delves into the profound fears and tragic feelings inherent in every human being.

The story revolves around two themes, Ingvar and Maria’s sad past experiences. When Petur appears, he serves as a living witness to their domestic life. The lamb represents a second chance, and whether Ada brings catastrophe or redemption, it symbolizes the opportunity for improvement or the next life.

Overall, Lamb offers a profound exploration of tragic themes, blending horror elements with a deeper sense of human emotions and spirituality.


As noted at the outset, Lamb rarely engages in explicit dialogue in flashbacks, conveying discomfort, terror, and silent tension between Maria and Ingvar. The evidence suggests that they have endured suffering together, attempting to emerge on the other side as a changed couple, but finding it challenging to rekindle their dynamic. The audience witnesses Ingvar’s sadness alternatingly coming to the fore. He remains optimistic, steadfast, and lives each day normally.

On the other hand, Maria uses her despair and regret as a shield, although it is not depicted as explicitly. Both characters exhibit overwhelming feelings of being lost, yet there is a nuance of emptiness in their emotions. The gray palette of Iceland’s vast landscape reinforces Maria’s grief, paralyzing the film’s first chapter, and hinting at the supernatural. However, one crucial aspect is that the two characters are unaware of such miracles, escalating tension after tension. These disputes and debates further isolate the characters’ grief, creating a symmetrical unity of expression.


Such revelation comes in the form of a lamb, unaware of how the audience perceives the lamb for a specific moment. Apart from the camera showing the surprised reactions of Maria and Ingvar at the beginning, it is strange when the two characters “adopt” the lamb and give it the name Ada. However, there was no push on such a pair. In other words, there is a difference between the lamb. Ironically, the drama is such a flashback when the couple knows something that the audience does not know either.

In the end, the sheep had legs, arms, and torso just like humans, becoming a physical representation of blurred lines between reality and fiction. The mother lamb, the tough sheep, repeatedly bleats outside the nursery window, being Maria in animal form; she knows exactly where the child is. However, she could not take back a helpless visit from a mother lamb to the nursery. It is lost forever, making an echo of Maria’s visit to her son. She only knows that the lamb does not belong to her or anyone else. However, she felt she could no longer live with such a threat that Ada’s biological mother and one mother were human and could not be a problem. It is one though the same.


According to Jóhannsson, Lamb‘s ending ambiguity lies in the representation of many things. He constantly changes his mind when watching the ending of the film. However, he believes that the best interpretation is Maria’s understanding of opening the “final stage” of sadness completely for the audience.

When Maria left the house to take her brother-in-law and her ex-lover Petur to the bus station, it was the second time she had cleared her house of a threat. Ingvar takes Ada for a walk across the vast landscape and is shot in the neck by an unseen antagonist when they come out. Finally, the audience sees Ada’s biological father, who has human legs, chest, and arms, but also has a ram’s head, resembling a Minotaur or a Behemoth in a horrifying manner. After fatally wounding Ingvar, the sheep father takes his daughter’s hand, quietly leaves, and Maria emerges up the hill to find her husband bleeding on the ground.

Instead of clearly showing the conclusion, the director puts Maria in a state of confusion by breaking the fourth wall but repeating the words “it’s okay” as if the lamb did not bring any havoc. However, what Maria saw was Ada and her father leaving the film together.


With such dynamics by Jóhannsson, he builds a story in a very enjoyable household. On the other hand, it quickly wears off with not much progress at any one point in time. However, on the whole, it revolves around parenthood, the dominance of human greed over nature, and, most noticeably, about protecting selfishness and immediate interests at all costs. It is not the fault of Sjón, the screenwriter, for discussing profound ideas around such a theme. However, Lamb puts all the characters in a blessing of terror and on an unclear backbone for a long time.

By prioritizing tone and aesthetics to explore meaningful anxiety at heart, the film exudes strong originality, almost making up for its deep flaws. It also speaks through the foggy lens of Eli Erenson à la Béla Tarr’s work. It is no coincidence that Tarr is the executive producer, as the film’s visual world is soulful and immersive. It employs a sharper fear when presenting the sheep as a unique feeling while discussing the longing for more peculiarities of Jóhannsson’s hand in the future.


Simply put, the tragedy is that humans are hurt. They prefer to deal with anything, including a miracle, as unreasonable as making a lamb their child. While understanding the harsh reality, Lamb somehow exposes its blessing of terror through punishment for the likes of Maria and Ingvar, leaving each audience to interpret it in their way. This also applies to Petur, reflecting the reality of the couple’s life.

The film is a folk tale full of morals about humans, existence, loss, self-improvement, and beetles. It is humanist, poetic, but very tragic, not only carrying weight in the gimmicks of the art, but also conveying a story through visuals.

The sin of the film lies only in its tone; it is too little and fails to convincingly portray such symbolism in an appropriate manner. By not striking a balanced and effective tone, many plot points come into being, and none are fully developed, resulting in a pile-up in the middle towards the end. The setup feels a little too empty, making it difficult for the audience to follow the film. Moreover, by no longer relying on the guidelines available, the film may appear funny and not tragic when watched blindly.


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