Gunda ★★½

GUNDA is a very accomplished film - especially in cinematography and sound design - whose last 15 minutes are quite moving and which was apparently made to sensitize audiences to the cruelty of factory farming. So why is my star rating so low? For a movie which is supposedly so austere, it's really rather sentimental and manipulative. I'm sure that pigs and cattle experience real emotions, less sure that when they stare into director Victor Kossakovsky's camera (as they often do) they're experiencing something a human audience can readily understand. The structure seems haphazard at first, but it's actually quite carefully planned. The scenes of piglets feeding at their mother's breasts are rather drab and start to get a little dull, but then the film takes us and the other animals outside. However, it carefully delineates the limits of the animals' freedom. This is foreshadowing. Kossakovskiy uses framing and editing techniques generally reserved for people to suggest animals' emotional lives. Throughout, I kept wondering if the sounds of animals squealing were sweetened in post-production, particularly in one key scene. The sight of the mama pig wandering through the farm in the final 5 minutes touched me. I also felt the director pulling at my heartstrings in a way I resented, particularly because it took place in a context that's supposed to be free of such Hollywood touches, and I wondered if Kossakovsky cut in some shots of the pig taken a week before the events depicted just a few minutes before. But maybe I'm a heartless cynic!

Steve Erickson liked this review