Viktor Kosakovskiy’s Gunda is a stand-out addition to the plethora of enlightening nature documentaries, including this year’s Oscar winner My Octopus Teacher (of which Gunda was also shortlisted for). Release upon release, the genre is incrementally holding up a mirror to humanity’s consistent refusal to recognise animals as sentient beings.

Gunda, however, is not preachy. Bearing no narrative, it’s simply an empirical examination of a sow, Gunda, and her piglets on a Norwegian farm. Filmed all in close-up, in black and white, and using all-natural light, Kosakovskiy along with his co-cinematographer Egil Haaskjold Larsen, uniquely tell their story through the vantage point of the animals. We glimpse into life segments of these germinating piglets; from fresh out of their umbilical sac and competitively trying to find a nipple to feed from, to ferocious play-fighting adolescents.

The long-takes prove hypnotic, inducing a trance-like viewing, transported by the piglets’ endearing wonderment at the unfolding world. Gunda is always present, at the helms, with a razor-sharp focus on them. There is the occasional infiltration of the other farm animals to take us out of the pigsty vacuum, such as a prying one-legged chicken and a herd of cows.

One can’t help anthropomorphising Gunda’s and her piglets’ interactions of high-pitched squeals and forceful grunts. Yet on closer inspection, one senses their comprehension, communication and internal processes are distinctive. They appear so in-tune with their bodies and surroundings in ways unfathomable to humans, guided by unquestionable primal instincts even in an nonthreatening environment with shelter and ample food and water.

Kosakovskyi doesn’t shy from the harsh reality. His observational filming style doesn’t interfere with the workings of the farm, however shocking some moments may be. For all the lush bucolic portrayal of this free-range farm, the sad yet inevitable commodification of flesh is just the same as any other mass-producing meat farm.



CAST: Gunda

DIRECTOR: Viktor Kosakovskiy

WRITERSViktor Kosakovskiy, Aniara Vera

SYNOPSIS: Documentary looks at the daily life of a sow, Gunda, and her piglets on a Norwegian free range farm.