By Roger Costa
THE OTHER LAMB
Award-winning Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska goes back to the controversial field of religious practices related to sex and manipulation with brilliance (she previously directed the gay-themed Priest story “In the Name of”). Her new work, a sumptuously shot and enigmatic dramatic horror addresses feminism, submissiveness and also female empowerment.
Selah is one of the youngest “lambs” of a mysterious cult, taking place at a remote, mountainous area, where their “shepherd” leads them through rituals, practices and chores. As night comes, he chooses a couple of wives to satisfy his pleasures, and Selah is on route to consecrate herself onto him.
She demonstrates a different behavior from the others, as she develops ambiguous reactions and desires, as well as haunted by her own visions and nightmares. They might announce what’s coming next, paving the way for a devotional revolution. Despite they are united and co-dependents, they are also dealing with jealousy and competition for favor and privilege.
As the others remain faithful and obedient, Selah starts questioning his authority and spiritual leadership, collecting revelations about the cult’s establishment and perspectives from her late mother. A conflict is inevitable, and Selah will have to rely on her wisdom to stand up as a fierce fighter on her collective quest for identity and purpose.
Impressively shot with hypnotic views from inside the woods and the heavenly-like area, Szumowska extracts convincingly profound performances from the entire female cast, dealing with a male-dominant persona in a perfect characterization of dementia, fanaticism and delirium. She also comments on malpractices of religious beliefs, social conflicts and sacrifices done for the faith.
Investigating the fragility of the human condition in contrast with a manipulative belief, Szumowska scored an exuberant and intensely bizarre folk tale.
(IFC Midnight Films releases “The Other Lamb” on VOD Friday, April 3-2020. Go to https://www.otherlambmovie.com/ for details.)