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Not the kind of thing guaranteed to have punters queuing around the block, perhaps, but interesting and very admirable in its way.
Filmed on farmyards in various countries, this is a singular documentary in various ways. There is no music and no dialogue, there are no people to be seen and the cinematography is in (beautifully grainy and crisp) black and white. Not the kind of thing guaranteed to have punters queuing around the block, perhaps, but interesting and very admirable in its way.
The central ‘characters’ are cows, a one-legged rooster with a commanding presence and – by far the animal with the most screen time – the titular Gunda, a sow. There is nothing Disney-fied or anthropomorphic going on here, though Gunda’s litter of piglets is definitively sweet – at least until they start insatiably suckling, snuffling and guzzling. The cattle, for their part, stare at the camera in a way that seems by turns imperious, wary and simply sad. The slow-motion sequences of them moving across a field are effective, but would be so even without the technical ‘leg-up’. Gunda is no more and no less than a doco about the daily lives of some farm animals, in which the temptation to editorialise is scrupulously avoided – even in the occasional disturbing moments – and we are left to draw our own conclusions.
It would be contrivedly dishonest to deny that there were longueurs in this film. At times it merely serves to prove that farmyard animals doing mundane things can be boring, much in the way that Warhol proved the same thing about human beings in Sleep. But it also stands as a timely reminder that these are sentient beings with individual personalities, which should have been obvious – as much as many members of our own species might forget (or choose to forget) it.