Cannes Film Festival 2021: Cow

Cannes Film Festival 2021: Cow | Review

July 10, 2021


“Did she really get that bad?” a farm worker asks another, to which he replies “what do you mean? » ; she specifies: “as in overprotective”. They discuss the animosity of Luma, one of the many cows on their farm who protects her newborn calf. It’s number six for her and over time she has become more careful with her young. Andrea Arnold – whose American honey won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2016 – directs a documentary that follows the cyclical life of Luma, a British dairy cow.

The film is 90 minutes of video footage of the animals in their not-so-natural habitat. One of the first scenes is a close-up of the birth of a calf, pulled with great effort by a rope tied around its hooves, arguing before it is even completely down. The milking process is also illustrated with a machine equipped with four suction nozzles, furiously sucking the teats of the mammal. The sound of a whale crying for its young sent shivers down the spine of the audience black fishand Cow is no different. Luma’s calls say “where are you” and “why are they doing this?” as her calf is picked up and she is prepared for milking.

Arnold established herself as a key figure in independent cinema, with her coming-of-age drama Aquarium, set in London flats, and its adaptation of The Wuthering Heights. The director excels in capturing what is left unsaid between humans and this excellence can extend to animals. It’s no small feat to make cattle the star of a movie when it’s not animated or voiced by a bankable celebrity. However, viewers still get a sense of how the cow feels: scared, anxious, and angry, and it all comes down to Arnold’s choices. Some scenes feel like the cameras have been dropped, leaving Luma in charge of directing: all shots and off-angle shots are included, putting the audience in the pen with the animals.

by Todd Hayne The Velvet Underground pushed the boundaries of documentary but Arnold abandoned them altogether. If you told a director to make a movie with no interviews, a soundtrack that can only be heard through the speakers of a farmyard barn and an ordinary cow as the subject, he would walk out of the room. That’s why she should be considered one of the most interesting filmmakers of her time, dismantling the rules of cinema, finding new ways to tell stories and leaving audiences in the dark when the film is over, needing to inhale and exhale repeatedly to come back. to reality.

Cow is a documentary like no other and a celebrated return to Cannes for Arnold.

Emma Kiely

Cow does not yet have a UK release date.

Read more reviews of our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.

For more information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.

Watch an excerpt from Cow here:

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