If you’re going to make a movie about a pig, there are a few ground rules to follow. Your porcine protagonist should be cute, it should talk, and it should have some sort of adventure – think of Babe (1995) and its sequel Pig in the City (1998), the 2006 adaptation of Charlotte’s Web or Hayao Miyazaki’s fighter pilot in Porco Rosso (1992). That’s the received wisdom, at least. Without a few anthropomorphising touches and an injection of drama, it’s hard to imagine many producers lining up to back a film about a pig that’s content to be a pig.
Enter Gunda, the titular sow in Victor Kossakovsky’s new film. Over the course of Gunda’s 93 minutes, we see this animal give birth, feed her young piglets, stroll around the farmlands, shelter from the rain and wallow happily in some mud. The soundtrack consists of nothing more than the grunts and squeals emitted by Gunda and her offspring, or the moos and clucks of the cows and chickens that Kossakovsky occasionally cuts away to. Gunda simply invites us to spend time contemplating these animals and – the director hopes – to see them as something other than a source of food.