Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gunda
Written by: Viktor Kosakovskiy, Ainara Vera
Directed by: Viktor Kosakovskiy
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 93
Date: 04/16/2021

Gunda (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Pig Picture

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This gorgeous farm documentary, filmed in black & white, is stripped to the core, with no music, narration, or even humans, and somehow captures the rhythms, innovations, and even emotions of animals.

In the film, a litter of newborn piglets circle around their mother, Gunda, alternately nursing and exploring their hay-topped surroundings. As time passes, the piglets grow, and begin to be more brazen about their exploring, but are still attached to mama. Meanwhile, we meet an intrepid one-legged chicken, who seems perfectly able to get around by hopping. We also meet some cows, who pair up, using their tails to swat the flies from their partner's face. When we return to the pigs, they are much bigger, and less reliant on their mama. It might be time for them to move on.

Directed by Russian filmmaker Viktor Kosakovskiy, Gunda features such subtle, searching cinematography that it inspired Joaquin Phoenix to sign on as an executive producer, and director Paul Thomas Anderson to call it "pure cinema," and proclaim that "it's what we should all aspire to as filmmakers and audiences."

The simple stories presented here, such as the pigs growing up and learning how to take care of themselves, are suddenly profound, with a truly heartbreaking ending as mama pig winds up alone. The one-legged chicken comes across as wily and clever as he overcomes obstacles such as a fallen tree branch. And the cows's problem-solving and teamwork is positively inspiring.

The movie's long shots can be alternately hypnotic but also lulling, and it'll be easy for viewers' minds to drift off — hopefully in tune with the movie's own rhythms. But, truthfully, even with its family-safe G rating, Gunda might be a little too slow for smaller children.

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