Gunda Parent Guide
Despite dazzling cinematography, this movie's lack of plot, dialogue, and action makes it too dull for the average viewer.
Parent Movie Review
Famed conservationist Jane Goodall once said, “Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined…they are individuals in their own right.” Apparently Gunda was produced to prove this assertion but it goes about its task in an unusual way.
This documentary, shot in black and white on a Norwegian farm, has no script, no plot, no dialogue, and no major events. Instead, the entire runtime is devoted to shadowing Gunda the pig and her frolicsome piglets, a bunch of chickens (including one with only one leg), and a herd of cows.
The biggest challenge you will find with Gunda’s unusual approach to filmmaking is that its pacing is agonizingly slow. (It’s so slow that at times it feels like you’ve been caught in a Star Trek-style rift in the space/time continuum that has you trapped in an eternal time loop.) The first fifteen minutes or so of the movie are devoted solely to scenes of newborn piglets staggering around, climbing over their mother, and suckling on her generous udder. This is not a movie for anyone who wants action. Watching the film can be vaguely hypnotic so it could help insomniacs drift off to sleep. But its real audience is committed animal-lovers or possibly people who want to combine mindfulness with watching movies. Alternatively, it also feels like a high-quality screen saver. Take your pick.
On the flip side, the film is beautifully shot. The cinematography is dazzling as director Viktor Kossakovsky turns a barnyard into a place of unexpected surprises. I know intellectually that farms are both mucky and smelly, but the black and white shots transform these pens and fields into places of sturdy geometry, varied textures, and enchanting interplays of light and shadow. You will never see a pig (or chicken or cow) the same way after watching Gunda.
The movie also challenges our view of animals by trying to give us a window onto their inner lives. Most of us have tried to understand how our pets feel, projecting human emotions onto our dogs, cats, or guinea pigs. We won’t ever know for sure if the animal stars of this film actually feel the emotions we attribute to them, but there’s one scene after a particularly rambunctious nursing session where Gunda has a drained, exhausted expression that will be familiar to mothers of any species.
With its complete absence of negative content, Gunda would seem tailor-made for family audiences. But I can’t emphasize enough that this is not an exciting film. It’s totally possible that your children will sit unblinking in front of the TV, completely mesmerized by the animals. It’s even more probable that they will last five minutes before jumping up and heading off in search of something with a bit more zing. And it’s almost certain that the movie will turn your kids into wannabe vegetarians. Figuring out where your crew is likely to land is up to you.Directed by Viktor Kossakovsky. Starring Gunda. Running time: 93 minutes. Theatrical release April 16, 2021. Updated April 13, 2021
Watch the trailer for Gunda
Rating & Content Info
Why is Gunda rated G? Gunda is rated G by the MPAA
Violence: Piglets tussle with and chew on each other.
Sexual Content: None
Alcohol / Drug Use: None
Other: In one scene, a piglet urinates in a blurry foreground image.
Page last updated April 13, 2021
Gunda Parents' Guide
Some countries give animals protection under law or even under their constitutions. What kind of rights do you think animals should have? How does watching a movie like Gunda affect the way you see animals and how you think they should be treated?
Swiss Info: How well are Swiss animals protected?
Vittana: 11 Pros and Cons of Animal Rights
Related home video titles:
For another barnyard documentary with a telegenic pig, check out The Biggest Little Farm. It features Emma the pig and her friend Greasy the rooster.
Fictional pigs are also frequent stars of the silver screen. Babe features a pig who wants to herd sheep. And Charlotte’s Web (in both animated and live action versions) tells the story of a pig whose arachnid friend saves him from the slaughterhouse.