Gunda Film Review (Part-2) Produced By Joaquin Phoenix
Directly following the credits after Gunda’s heart-rending final scene, you’ll find a taped interview of Joaquin Phoenix and director Victor Kossakovsky sharing how their film came together.
Victor described how, although a lifelong vegetarian, he was not a vegan when he started making this film. Thus, he didn’t make the film with the underlying mission of persuading people to choose veganism, but rather to fulfill a 20-year aspiration. He’d been dreaming about capturing the lives of pigs, chickens, and cows in a black-and-white film since 1997.
The typical response?
Outright laughter, followed by “About pigs? Who’s going to watch it?” For twenty years, nobody stepped forward to finance his dream.
After he joined forces with Joaquin, the two laid out a pre-production schedule. They expected to spend at least six months searching for the right pig to play their leading lady. But fortune intervened.
Waiting behind the first barn door, they opened on the first farm they visited was Gunda. With one gaze at Victor, she made it clear: “Your search is over, even before it began!”
During their first encounter, he recalls that her expressiveness was so remarkable that he compared her to cinema actors who’ve mastered the art of nonverbal communication. The ones who draw attention using only facial expressions and body language. Even their pauses speak volumes.
The connection between them was so surreal, he says, that his team of twenty-something-year-old producers had tears in their eyes. And the tears continue flowing throughout the filming as the entire crew grew closer to the farm animals.
Without a doubt, Gunda’s final scene is also the most powerful. Filmmakers and producers knew the tractor would be coming to haul away Gunda’s piglets, whom they’d come to love over several months of filming.
When asked how to position their cameras to capture Gunda’s reaction to losing her family, Victor told them to give her space and not film too closely.
“In the end of the shot, she will come to us,” he explained.
Asked how he knew, he responded: “I feel she will come to us because there is no one else she can talk with; there is no one else, only us.”
Sure enough, the farmer hauled off the piglets, and she came to the filmmakers with searching eyes. And as at the beginning, the team couldn’t hold back the tears.
Victor has a way of expressing things that will stay with me forever – such as:
“We all know that what we do is wrong. All of us we know -¦ when we eat lunch we know that this animal was just killed, we pretend it didn’t happen.”
“We pretend, we don’t think about it. This is why cinema exists. I guess. Cinema can show you something you don’t want to see. Or you are not able to see. Or you decided not to see.”
“That’s why I decided to make it silent, without someone explaining. I just want you to see, and understand.”
His final words on the filming experience showed me how profoundly meeting Gunda has affected him:
“I’ve never been so happy in my entire life! You do film, and you become a different person. You feel that you cannot live in the way you used to live. Even all my life, I was vegetarian, since four. After making it [the film], of course, I became vegan.”
And he’s far from alone. Since his Gunda documentary release, Victor has received many emails from people it has inspired to change their diet. After seeing Gunda’s story, they can’t imagine eating meat again.
If only everyone could seize this incredible opportunity to pause for 90 minutes and become mesmerized by a pig’s-eye view of the world!