Review: The Lamb Of God (2020)

Film still from “The Lamb of God” by David Pinhiero Vincente. Courtesy of Square Eyes

In a village in the rural Portugal, a poor family of five is trying to make their ends meet. As a Catholic festivity of great importance for the vilage approaches, the mother is faced with a heavy task of having to slaughter their lamb Limpy, her youngest child Chico’s best friend. The boy instinctively protects his friend aware of the destiny its predecessors met. When everyone else is sleeping in their beds, he’s slouched next to Limpy outside the house on the dusty ground to make sure the lamb’s safe. The mother doesn’t have it easy either: she has never killed an animal before, and besides of being scared to do it, she is also not sure how to perform the act of killing. The help is nowhere near, but it is clear from the very beginning that the community and the rest of the family expect her to jump over her own shadow and do what she is expected to do. “It’s her turn”, after all.

David Pinhiero Vincente’s sophomore short The Lamb Of God is based on the stories he was told by his father who came from the village of Solheira where the film was shot, to be precise – in the very house he had spent his childhood in. The family home is long time abandoned, but according to Vincente “it is still filled with the same ghosts”. Not only the setting is authentic, the atmosphere surrounding it comes as genuine as well. Some of the actors appearing in the film – the boy and his younger sibling (in film only), are the natives of the village. Although they don’t have any prevous acting experience, their presence on the screen is strong and convincing.

Speaking of ghosts, they pretty much come to life through the dreamy texture of the 16mm and Joana Silva Fernandes’s cinematography: everything from the shooting angles, the play of light and shadow, and the intensity of green and blue hues highlight the dangers of the so called ordinary life with striking intensity. Aggression is all around, in its passive form. The script is written in such a way that violence never becomes explicit, it is more presented as a threatening shadow hovering over people. Obstacles layed on their path are dictated by the church, local beliefs and even more by the local farmer who provides the oldest son with a job. Payment is something one has to ask kindly for, as the young farm owner doesn’t treat his workers worthy his attention. He is more interested in using his position of power for other purposes.

The Lamb of God was part of the Short Films Competition of the Cannes Film Festival (27-29 October), and its future looks bright with prospects of being shown at many more festivals in the next year. Its next stop is at the PÖFF shorts in Tallin, where it’s going to have its Baltic premiere.

Original title: O Coredeiro de Deus
Country: Portugal, France
Language: Portuguese
Runtime: 15′
Year: 2019
Produced by: Gabriel Abrante, Jérôme Blesson
Written & Directed by: David Pinhiero Vincente
Cinematographer: Joana Silva Fernandes
Art Director: Júlio Alves
Production Manager: Maria Inês Goncalves
Sound: Miguel Coelho
Sound Mixer: Simon Apostolou
Boom Operator: Marcelo Tavares
Editor: Laura Gama Martins
Colour Grading: Yannig Willmann
Cast: Miguel Amorim, Carla Galvão, Gabriel Salvado, Constança Alves, João Vicente, Diogo Vale
Sales and Festivals: Square Eyes