“There can be only one ram in a flock”

Cult Classics

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This 2019 cult movie uses surrealism to communicate a crisis of faith.

Surrealist movies aren’t for everyone.

Films that divert from standard filmmaking conventions, delivering abstract imagery and leaving their inner workings up to interpretation, can be extremely powerful — even if they risk alienating the viewer. But at their best, these stories communicate a powerful message.

This 2019 film uses surrealism to explore the inner life of a young woman raised in a cult, documenting her awakening in a slow-creeping fashion. And it’s streaming online right now.

The Other Lamb, a 2019 film directed by Polish filmmaker Małgorzata Szumowska, first introduces a group of young girls as they go about their daily chores, accompanied by haunting close-harmony singing. Though they live off the land and act as if living centuries ago, establishing shots show a modified camper van nearby, as well as a Barbie customized to wear the same dress the young girls wear, situating the film within a modern-day cult.

The only man in the group, known only as “The Shepherd” (Michiel Huisman), is this cult’s mysterious leader. Praying to him, the girls listen to his lectures, and each evening he picks one of his “wives” to spend the night with. The Other Lamb focuses on Selah (Raffey Cassidy), the only daughter of one such wife, who died soon after childbirth.

Raised within the cult, Selah matures and gradually develops more abstract thinking, experiencing wild fantasies about her life. She sees herself constantly screaming, though no sound escapes her lungs. She sees a vision of a lamb on a hill, skinned but still bleating. She begins retreating into these fantasies as The Shepherd resolves to relocate the cult, also lavishing more attention on Selah.

Though The Other Lamb is technically a horror movie, there aren’t any all-out scares to be found. Instead, the frights come from the sheer despair and desperation Selah experiences while questioning the faith she’s been raised in her entire life. In one moment, she spots a car driving along a road and fantasizes about being in the backseat with her parents in the front, looking back at her.

The Shepherd gathers with his wives and daughters.

IFC Films

While horror remains in an eerie negative space throughout the majority of the film, the last 10 minutes turn this aspect from subtext into text. The ending delivers the sort of righteous justice Selah has spent the entire film imagining, and this horrific act on her behalf feels like the only logical response to her situation.

Are you an arthouse diehard looking for a rich meditation on cults and faith? A cult obsessive looking for a different take on the “high control” mindset? A casual movie fan looking for something a bit more abstract? Without losing the potency of its narrative structure, The Other Lamb offers a perfect, unsettling option for an evening’s worth of thought-provoking entertainment.

The Other Lamb is now streaming on Hulu.

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