The life and fate of the pig Gunda are seen as a self-contained cosmos, harmoniously devoid of human presence but not inferior to the human world in terms of passions and emotions.
Documentary film maker Victor Kossakovsky’s latest film makes a radical attempt to see the animal world from the animal’s point of view.
The author of highly original documentaries, Kossakovsky has made a black-and-white epic about Gunda, a pig living on a farm in Norway. Just like his Aquarela, the world’s first ever picture filmed at 96 frames per second, which literally plunged the viewer into the element of water, the meditative film Gunda decolonizes our view of nature by removing it from human power and optics.
The film invites the audience to take the animal’s position and exist with the pig on an equal footing. The camera follows Gunda and her piglets at the eye level of the “protagonists.” In the rare moments when the camera looks down at them from human height, their life appears to lose authenticity and the viewer’s complicity is replaced by observation.
Following Gunda and the farm’s other inhabitants—horses, cows, chickens, and roosters— Kossakovsky skillfully leads the audience away from anthropocentric perception to pure gazing at the Other. The relationship between nature and people in Gunda appears as a system of confrontations and restrictions: there is not a single person featured in this documentary, with traces of human presence evident only through disturbing images of cars, fences, cages, and pig pens.
The executive producer of the film, which premiered at the Berlinale in 2020, is actor and celebrated animal rights activist Joaquin Phoenix.
Dir. Victor Kossakovsky
Norway, USA, UK, 2020. 93 min. 6+