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HIC recommends: THE COUNTY and RAMS

The County | 2019 | Grímur Hákonarson | Iceland / Denmark / Germany / France | Cert 12A | 92 mins | Icelandic language

The final film of our April to June season was due to have been Icelandic director and screenwriter Grímur Hákonarson’s comedy drama THE COUNTY, set in a small dairy farming community.

Set in a small Icelandic farming community, THE COUNTY tells the story of Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir), a middle-aged dairy farmer who rebels against the all powerful local Cooperative. Inga tries to get other farmers to join her in rising up against the Co-op’s corruption, but encounters great resistance, forcing her to confront the community’s dependence and loyalty to this single, dominant enterprise. Inga must use her resourcefulness and cunning to break free of the Co-op’s grasp and finally live life on her own terms.

The County | 2019 | Grímur Hákonarson | Iceland / Denmark / Germany / France | Cert 12A | 92 mins | Icelandic language

The film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 and had been building some excellent festival buzz and critical momentum before the Covid-19 crisis interrupted its release schedule. Writing in The Observer, Mark Kermode says that “The Country blends elements of heartfelt tragedy with absurdist comedy, conjuring a humanist portrait of life in which community and loneliness coexist in a landscape of contradictions – geographical, personal, and political.” Danny Leigh’s review in the FT described the film as “a beautifully judged account of one woman drawing a line in the snow.”

THE COUNTY’s planned cinema released has now been moved online, and it can currently be found exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema before a wider home format release later in the year.

Wry Icelandic humour has had a regular spot in HIC programmes, going back to the wonderful OF HORSES AND MEN which we screened in our very first year, 2014. But for this week’s HIC recommends title, we need look no further than THE COUNTY director Grímur Hákonarson’s last feature, RAMS, which uses a similar small farming community – sheep this time – as the backdrop for a tale of two warring brothers.

In a secluded Icelandic valley, estranged brothers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) live side by side tending to their prized ancestral sheep stock, despite not having spoken in 40 years. When a lethal disease suddenly infects Kiddi’s sheep, all the animals in the area are culled to contain the outbreak, with many farmers abandoning their land. But the brothers don’t give up so easily, and each tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits. As the authorities close in, they will need to come together to save their sheep – and themselves – from extinction.

Rams | 2015 | Grímur Hákonarson | Iceland / Denmark / Norway / Poland | Cert 15 | 91 mins | Icelandic language

RAMS won 11 Eddas (Icelandic Academy Awards), the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes, and Best Film titles at festivals around the world from Denver to Zurich. Critics hailed it as “a masterclass in combining character and landscape … played with deceptive poignancy by the excellent leads” (Empire) and “so much its own film that figuring out where its unusual, unpredictable plot will end up is difficult if not impossible” (LA Times).

We screened RAMS at Trinity House Theatre in June 2016. If you missed it then, or want to enjoy it all over again, it’s available to rent or buy on digital platforms including BFIPlayer, Apple TV and Curzon Home Cinema.

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