Gunda ★★½

Fascinating as an attempt to aestheticize nonhumans without anthropomorphizing them, offering a Tarr-like alternative to more modernist takes on that question like Denis Côté’s Bestiaire. But as with Aquarela I feel like Kossakovsky isn’t quite in command of his technical and formal experiments. At its core, this is vegetarian melodrama in silvery slow-cinema garb—its thudding end edges out other interpretations. And I’m not sure it works.

What isn’t reflected in much of the existing writing around Gunda is the way that—to its credit, I think—it foregrounds the alterity of these pigs. The sow steps on her child, breaking its leg. There’s a horrific quality to some scenes that seems unmotivated. In that sense it’s an effective defamiliarization of meat production, but it fails to make these pigs take on ethical force. This might be because it replicates art cinema tropes that lend themselves more to pessimism than critique.