A pig, a cow and a one-legged chicken are the unlikely stars of this quietly transcendent black-and-white doc set on a Norwegian farm and exec-produced by passionate vegan Joaquin Phoenix. If the intention is to put you off meat for life, job done. Without ever anthropomorphising them, the message is clear: animals have feelings too and your bacon sarnie isn’t helping them.
Gunda, the momma pig who (ahem) hogs the limelight, is a study in soulfulness and stoicism. She bookends the film in two long, unbroken takes: the first, in which she’s snoozing away before being overrun by her litter of tiny piglets, is possibly the feelgood moment of the year so far. Without spoiling it, the second definitely isn’t.
They’re typical of director Viktor Kossakovsky’s patient approach. He lets the camera roll with slow pans and fly-on-the-pigsty-wall intimacy, and is rewarded with magical moments. Gunda and her brood provide many of them, but you’ll also find yourself invested in the fate of its hopping chicken as it makes a break for freedom.
Artfully lit and soundtracked by chirruping bugs and buzzing bees, the experience is so soothing that it’s easy to be caught out when the world’s distressing realities elbow in. But it speaks volumes for the power of its woozy spell that it’s so tough to see it broken.
In UK cinemas Jun 4.