A24 has yet another unique horror film hitting theaters, and this time it is more fable than a scary story. Lamb, which hits theaters Oct. 8, is about a married couple, Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), finding a mysterious newborn on their farm and raising it as their own. Filmed in Iceland, the gorgeous location mixed with the film’s more fantastical elements and heartwarming story make for a modern and captivating fairytale. Lamb is directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, marking his directorial feature debut. Rapace is best known for her roles in Prometheus or starring as the steely Lisbeth Salander in 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In an interview with CBR, Rapace and Jóhannsson discussed what it was like filming Lamb in such an idyllic location with a small cast.
CBR: As an actor, what drew you to this role?
Noomi Rapace: She was unlike all roles I’ve ever been offered, and the combination of Maria and Sjón and Vladimar’s scripts and the opportunity to come back to Iceland and bring her to live all these components made her into one of my favorites, like a dream character and a dream opportunity. She’s so complex. She has so much vulnerability and fragility, but also this deeply rooted kind of primal strength.
As a director, what drew you to this project?
Valdimar Jóhannsson: I wanted to make a film. I had been looking for a long time, coming up with something that would be something I really love to do.
Rapace: Also something you really would like to see. We talked a lot about a movie that you would like to go to if you were the audience, that you would go and see.
Touching on something you brought up earlier about going back to Iceland and the environment, it’s such an isolated and beautiful location. As an actor, what was it like to play around in this sort of environment?
Rapace: Brutal and magical, at the same time. We shot up in the north of Iceland, and in this valley, there was no phone signal. It was a very small set. It was kind of stripped down to its core. Then you go back to where it all begins and yourself, and you confront yourself and a lot of things maybe you thought you dealt with, or you were done with this. I think that Iceland has that power in a way. Iceland is itself a character, and it will force you to see yourself, and I don’t want to avoid myself, so it was scary and good.
Same question for you. As a director, what was it like to get to play in this environment and bring your movie to life here?
Jóhannsson: It’s just amazing to get the opportunity to make a film. I think I should be super thankful for that. Then you’re talking about the location. We had been looking for the right location for so long, and we had been driving around Iceland two times or something when we found this location. Then suddenly, we saw it could work and somehow fits in our world.
Drawing attention to Ada, what was it like, as a director, to bring her to life — this very unique character we get to see, who plays such a big part in this film?
Jóhannsson: We somehow felt she was with us the whole time because we were working with children and real lambs and also puppets.
Rapace: She was very much there. It was not like a CGI creature… It was very much there with us.
Jóhannsson: I think both of us just somehow saw her as she was supposed to be.
You also mentioned how, along with this being in an isolated environment, this is a relatively close-knit, small cast. As an actor, what was it like being able to work with such a limited amount of people and get these really tight dynamics going?
Rapace: I loved it. The concentration becomes almost crispy. Everyone’s attention is on the same. It’s a collective concentration and energy we’re kind of carrying I felt from every single like crew member, like the camera department, like props, the actors, the animals. We live in the story together. It was a very beautiful tribe, and because it’s so small and everyone is personally involved in doing their very best and giving everything, it becomes this energy, and that is cool, very unique and rare because we all feel like we are on this journey together. This will never come back. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Same question for you. From a director’s perspective, what was it like to work with such a small cast, as well as these animals?
Jóhannsson: It was amazing doing your first feature with these amazing actors and working so closely with them. You all helped me out somehow. Like Noomi was saying, we were all in it so much together.
Rapace: There was no ego. There was no hierarchy. There was beautiful equality. We knew it was going to be hard too.
Looking back at your time filming Lamb, I would love to know what were some of your favorite memories, starting with Valdimar? What was one of your favorite memories working on the set?
Jóhannsson: There are so many. It’s hard for me to take out one. It’s probably just like I was saying. Working with all these amazing people, it was just nice. Every day, even though it was super difficult that I was super stressed because sometimes…
Rapace: Vladimir doesn’t like to make decisions quickly.
Jóhannsson: Yeah, that’s probably the hardest problem for me, if I have to decide something very fast.
And for you, what was one of your favorite memories on set?
Rapace: I have moments with the lamb when I felt like I was actually communicating with her. I knew what she was feeling and thinking. There was this one scene, we’ve been talking a little bit about this last days, when I put the flower crown on her, and we’re out in the field, and it just became this divine connection. Her face was so close to me. She was breathing close to my nose and breathing in my air. I was like breathing in her air. We were talking through breathing. She was totally still, and it felt wow. We are actually communicating now. I had a few of those moments when I was so thrown off because we live those lives when everything is so fast. There’s no time to reflect, and we’re on our phones and constantly stimulated. We don’t stop. We don’t allow ourselves to actually connect with any other tool or communication than speech. It landed deeper in me than just that scene.