Friday, 22 January 2021

REVIEW: Ram of God for the Living Record Festival Online

Designed in response to the debilitating effects of Covid-19 on the live arts industry, Living Record Productions have created Living Record Festival, a month-long Digital Arts Festival showcasing over 45 original pieces from independent artists and theatre companies across the world. The content of the festival has been purpose-built for a digital platform and includes theatre, dance, circus, comedy, documentary, spoken word, binaural sound and music.

Ram of God is an alternative film and the creation of Theodora van der Beek with Soho Theatre and notably, nominated for Best Comedy and Best Actress at the Alternative Film Fest. Self categorised as comedy/feminist folk horror it follows the story of a "milk-based" cult set in the middle of the countryside. The cults prophet/leader, part man part sheep, goes by the name Ram and claims to be the saviour of all those who follow him when the apocalypse comes in 2028. His most favoured followers, all female, are to commit their lives to him. They are to do this by; drinking only milk as a lubricant to escape sin, by not cutting or washing their hair, not wearing makeup and literally give over their body and soul to Ram.
Ram of God is a highly visual and visceral manifestation of power and gender dynamics mixed with absurd comedy and a psychedelic experience. Clearly influenced by seventies cult horror and styled with bad wigs, awkward dancing, garish costumes and more rotting food, flesh and milk drinking than I thought I could stomach, this film makes bold and brave choices. 

Despite its grotesque imagery and the nauseating editing of scenes chopped into pieces quicker than the brain can comprehend, the film somehow still draws you in. This is largely attributed to the beautiful cinematography and immersive soundtrack featuring original music by Adam Janet Bzowski, Esther Abrami, Dan Henig and Phsycadelik Pedestrian.

Finding new ways of transposing live theatre onto film is one of the main intentions of the work. This element is accomplished most successfully by the narrated text, layered and interwoven through the images and action. It's heightened in style which can run the risk of feeling pretentious when put onto film yet it finds a comfortable home in this strange world manifested by van der Beek.

Admittedly I am known to be a wimp when it comes to grotesque/ horror content of this type. At first, I thought I wasn't enjoying the film, it's not easy to watch. However, once I allowed myself to go on the trip I had to concede that my unpleasant and at times physical response was what made the work so good. 

Ram of God is a commanding piece of art. I dare you to stomach it.

Streaming online from 17 January – 22 February 2021 as part of the Living Record Festival.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £6 standard £4 concession
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