“Gunda” is, in many ways, a remarkably simple film about the ordinary life of the eponymous pig, her newborn piglets and farm neighbors: chickens and cows. The 93-minute film is made up of a collection of long takes in which the audience is invited to observe the animals’ daily routine in up-close detail.
Director Victor Kossakovsky shot only a total of six hours of footage, yet a tremendous amount of care went into each image. When Kossakovsky was on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast he talked about those decisions and how each was at the service of allowing his audience to see the essence and intellect of everyday farm animals.
For example, “Gunda” was originally shot in vivid color, the director having been taken by the beauty of the vivid blue sky, green grass, and pink skin of the newborn piglets, “but when we took out color, we immediately saw personality in each of them,” said Kossakovsky, who was, in particular, shocked by how the viewer was drawn to Gunda’s eyes, and hence her soul, when seen in black and white.
In the video essay above, Kossakovsky also shows how Gunda’s barn was constructed so his camera could carefully track and crane from the outside looking in, allowing the director to get the exact shots he wanted without disturbing the natural interaction between Gunda and her babies. The director and cinematographer Egil Håskjold Larsen then hung a disco ball creating beautiful dapples of light that gave the dark interior of barn contrast and depth.
Like with his previous film “Aquarela” — Kossakovsky’s ode to the sea — creating a naturalistic, but larger-than-life soundscape is essential to the director’s films. To see (and hear) how Kossakovsky used the everyday language of pigs, watch the video essay at the top of this page. To listen to the full conversation, subscribe to the podcast below:
The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.