VOD film review: Gunda
James R | On 05, Jul 2021
Director: Viktor Kossakovsky
Watch Gunda online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Two years ago, Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky made his Glasgow Film Festival debut with Aquarela, a bewildering, dazzling, hypnotic film that followed water flowing across the globe. With no voiceover, vox pops or dialogue, it was as a bold artistic piece of documentary filmmaking that recalled Baraka or Samsara in its bewitching, immersive use of visual poetry. Now, he makes his return with another equally mesmerising feat – but this time, he’s swapped water for pigs.
Gunda, which means “female warrior”, is the closest we get to an authorial statement in this sweet, moving and stunning film, which follows the titular sow as she gives birth and raises her litter. Naming the porcine portrait after its heroine is the only act of anthropomorphism that occurs through the movie’s 90 minutes, with Kossakovsky notably resisting the urge to add statistics or craft a story, instead just plonking his camera in the hay with the animals and letting them get on with it.
That piglet eye’s view of farmyard life is all we need to get emotionally involved, as we see not only the piglets making their way through each day but also a herd of cattle and even a one-legged chicken. From rain and running through fields to rooting out the runt of a litter, it’s a gorgeously beautiful and hugely evocative tapestry of everyday existence in an animal world, with humankind’s influence notable yet notably unseen – a moment at the end reminds us that these pigs are destined for a dining table somewhere. Where, exactly? Like the pigs in centre-frame, captured in crisp black-and-white, we don’t know and it doesn’t matter – even those who eat bacon will have their heartstrings tugged by this charming, poignant and unique piece of cinema.
Gunda is available on BBC iPlayer until August 2022
Where can I buy or rent Gunda online in the UK?
This review was originally published at the 2021 Borderlines Film Festival.