NEW YORK – You may never eat bacon again after watching "Gunda" (Neon), filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky's compelling documentary about life on the farm for the eponymous sow and her piglets.
Unlike "Babe" and "Charlotte's Web," there's no dialogue and not a human in sight. Instead, what unfolds over 93 minutes of glorious black-and-white cinematography is as unexpected as it is mesmerizing. Hidden cameras capture the intimacy and simplicity of the daily routine of a porcine family, revealing a surprising intelligence and a range of "emotions," including joy, anger and sorrow.
"Gunda" follows our heroine over the course of a few months, beginning with the birth of a dozen or so piglets. Mom spends most of the day on her side as her brood suckles away, seemingly growing larger before our eyes.
Gunda's personality emerges and, admittedly, she is a bit of a ham. Parenting consists of loud grunts or firm snout nudges as she teaches her rambunctious brood how to forage for food in the muddy fields (and yes, pigs love mud). When it's time to return to the barn, the kids fall in line under mom's stern gaze.
There are brief glimpses of Gunda's neighbors. Chickens emerge warily from their cage, surveying their surroundings with beady eyes like a flock of security guards. Each step forward is cautious, yet deliberate.
By contrast, cows stampede out of their barn like thoroughbreds, anxious to converge on the patch of grassy field left uneaten the day before. Solitary by nature, these majestic beasts also display a kind of camaraderie, huddling together to swat flies off each other with their tails.
But Gunda and her family are the stars of this show. When the (unseen) farmer arrives to separate her from her (now quite large) offspring, Gunda's reaction is profound, and may have viewers searching for a tissue.
Pigs may not fly, but "Gunda" soars, a balm for stressful times that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association rating is G – general audiences. All ages admitted.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.