Valdimar Johannsson interview: ‘Lamb’ director
Iceland’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, “Lamb,” tells the story of a childless couple, Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmer Snaer Gudnason), who discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, before ultimately destroying them. The film was directed and co-written by Valdimar Johannsson, who was “honored” to make the Oscar shortlist. Watch our exclusive video interview with Johannsson above.
“I have to admit that we were worried,” the first-time director says about “Lamb.” “We were making a film with a very thin line if it’s going to work or not. We wanted to make a film that we felt we had not seen, but wanted to see. We knew that in the beginning.”
Johannsson had prior relationships with both veteran actors in his film before shooting. “I’m extremely lucky,” he says. “I had the cast that I wanted to have. With Noomi, we talked about things and went through all the scenes. With Hilmer, even before the shooting, we went on a trip and spent time on the location going through the script. They also helped me a lot because this is my first feature.”
“Lamb” was shot in Northern Iceland after an exhaustive search for the right location. “I was looking for a specific farm,” Johannsson explains. “I even made one out of clay, like a mold. We drove around Iceland a few times looking for this farm, but it doesn’t exist. In the end, my brother and his daughter found this farm very close to where I grew up. I had never been there. Nobody had lived there for 20 years so it was nice that we could come there and do with it what we want.”
Although the animals we see on the farm are real, the character of Ada is a mixture of various elements. “We were working with 10 children, four lambs and puppets,” he explains while discussing the hybrid lamb-child in the film. “We did all the scenes with all these elements and mixed it together. There were also some special effects. So there were a lot of elements to work with.”
“We are extremely happy and honored to be there,” Johannsson says of making the Oscar shortlist. “There are so many people watching ‘Lamb.’ So many people showed up in the cinema. I didn’t believe it! I’m just extremely happy that we are in this group.”