Agreeing to differ, October 2016

Jon Foster and Michael Rowan

Introduction by Michael

The CFS Committee have their most serious debates over the content of the forthcoming season and I wondered if Jon and I would clash.  He had such strong opinions about the films he liked and backed up his well framed arguments with the opinions of acclaimed film critics.

As I saw it there was just one problem - he didn’t necessarily agree with me.

So if you always wondered what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object this may well be the article for you.

Our new series of film-related articles continues.  We consider the films that we have both seen as part of the Chiltern Film Society season (a season we both helped put together) plus some films that are on general release (if we can agree which ones of course).

I am Michael Rowan, self opinionated film lover who enjoys the post-film debate almost as much as the film itself.  I have a number of film buddies with whom to discuss the fine and not so fine points of the film but none that are members of the Chiltern Film Society.

My adversary is Jon Foster, though it beats me how someone who outed himself as a closet devotee of Notting Hill can have the gall to flaunt his views on cinema.

So without further ado, let the games begin……

Here is our debate about Rams, the 3rd film in the current season, screened on 5th October 2016:

Dear Jon

Well Icelandic cinema isn’t big on subtlety is it?  Or am I being too harsh?  Metaphor after metaphor came down thick and fast like snowflakes in a blizzard accompanied by signposting that was hard to ignore.  The two men were the two rams once like twin lambs.  Tick.  Just to make sure we were treated to several shots front on profile and yes they looked like the rams that they cared for.  Tick.  The older brother did not inherit the farm so he was the black sheep of the family.  Tick.

And of course the two brothers are locking horns throughout.  Tick

And what a colourless landscape and film palette, even the scene at Christmas - never has a deep midwinter seemed so bleak.

On the other hand having said that it was predictable I didn’t see the ‘rescued sheep’ coming, nor the shovel in the face for that matter.

Yours with chattering teeth

Michael

 

Michael

I’m not sure I can make generalisations about Icelandic films because I think that’s the only one I’ve seen (like you, perhaps, or am I the one being harsh?), though the Scandinoir series Trapped was pretty damn fine.  And excuse the digression, but I got quite excited when the town in the bay looked like the setting for Trapped….

OK, I know what you mean.  But I found any predictability offset by the constantly shifting mood – at times comedy (though actually not quite as funny as I was expecting), at times something much darker and finally moving inexorably towards tragedy.  I liked the landscape, and felt that the characters were very much rooted in their environment.  Likewise the communal scenes, and I thought that the devastation to the community caused by the scabies diagnosis was well conveyed.

But how did the ending strike you?  Rather abrupt, perhaps?

Jon

 

Dear Jon

It’s a fair cop it’s the only Icelandic film I have ever seen and I haven’t even seen ‘Trapped’ I refuse to use the term Scandinoir and recommend that you cease forthwith.

Comedy?  Is there an alternative definition of which I am unaware? At best the occasional wry smile. In fact I laughed more at your use of the term ‘Scandinoir’ Wry smiles were awarded to the scene where he was cooking lamb shank or whatever it was and then reheated it in the microwave.

More seriously I thought the depiction of the brothers was actually quite nuanced.  The younger brother cowed by his older sibling.  The scene where the unconscious older brother is picked up in a tractor bucket and deposited at the hospital certainly rang true. (I speak as the eldest).

Yours looking for a proverbial welder

Michael


Dear Michael

What makes me laugh is someone who po-facedly says they refuse to use the term S*****N*** and then immediately repeats it in the next paragraph! Incidentally, one pleasant aspect of Rams was that the knitwear brought back happy memories of The Kiĺling....

The hospital visit in the tractor bucket made me laugh too, though the implications in respect of your filial relationship sound alarming. That was one scene where I thought the uncertain mood worked effectively: I had worried that the younger brother might be going to dump his sibling in the river or a snowdrift, so the humour was enhanced by relief of tension.

I agree that the relationship between the brothers was nuanced.  A week on, what most endures for me is the final image of the two entwined in each other's arms.  Rather bizarrely, it brought to mind an image from Women in Love – no, not the nude wrestling scene, but one in which two young lovers go swimming and drown, and their naked bodies are found in a tight embrace. I found the love expressed in the final line “My dear Gummi, everything will be all right” (which it patently wouldn't be) very moving after so many years of mute antagonism.

I do worry for the sheep and sheepdog, though....

Yours in an attractive hand-knitted Sarah Lund sweater,

Jon


Dear Jon

Po Faced?  Po faced?  I was clearly deploying irony and the use of quotation marks proves my innocence.

I rather liked the ending but I thought it another clumsy metaphor.  Twin lambs naked of course returned to the womb ie Mother Earth.  The older of the two has grown through suffering and returned to protecting and reassuring his younger brother.  Literally a rebirth.

I think there should be a special mention for the actor filmed sat on the lavatory who by facial expression alone conveyed so much including the dawning realisation that dear Gummi was housing sheep.

Your concern for dog and sheep is to your credit and I too worried about the latter in particular though not for them being lost in the snow.  I found myself wondering if you could keep the sheep in a basement so close together and for so long without natural daylight.  Perhaps I am reading too much into a plot device.

Yours as pure as the driven snow

Michael


Dear Michael

I share your concern about the sheep's welfare in the basement.  I wonder whether they were Method actors, prepared willingly to go the extra mile for their art, or whether once the day's shoot was finished they retired to their luxury caravans?"

Yours with tongue firmly in cheek

Jon