GFF 2021: Gunda

Victor Kossakovsky's Gunda invites us into the idyllic-seeming life of a massive pig and her brood of rambunctious piglets

Film Review by Jamie Dunn | 08 Mar 2021
  • Gunda
Film title: Gunda
Director: Victor Kossakovsky
Release date: 30 Apr

Bacon addicts might want to steer clear of Gunda, but everyone else will be in hog heaven. Victor Kossakovsky’s supremely gorgeous, deeply moving documentary invites us into the world of the eponymous sow, who we first see through the opening of her barn, where she seems to be napping. It’s no wonder she’s knackered: she’s just given birth to a huge litter of rambunctious piglets (at least a dozen) who are frantically trying to get their first feeding.

Kossakovsky’s attentive camera initially stays low to the ground at piglet-eye-level. From this perspective, Gunda – already a big girl – appears ginormous. We might get a glimpse of her ear, rump or snout, but there’s too much of her to fit in one frame. When her trotter comes down directly on top of the runt of the litter, it’s like Godzilla stomping on a screaming bystander.

Shot in black and white with no sweeping music, cutesy narration or attempt to anthropomorphise, Kossakovsky allows us to think for ourselves and form more personal observations. Piglet crushing aside, Gunda appears a pretty devoted mother, with the litter following close by her side. Several sequences take us to other farm animals – we meet a extremely determined one-legged chicken and a herd of bovine, who are kind of boring – and each time we return to Gunda, the piglets have grown and the camera opens up wider.

It’s a sharp technique that means by the end of the film the point-of-view is ours, the audience, who are simultaneously helpless to prevent and culpable in the final, devastating fate of Gunda’s offspring.


Gunda has its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival, screening 7-10 Mar
Released in the UK 23 Apr by Altitude