Andrea Arnold. Photo: Rankin
In Andrea Arnold’s first touching documentary a cow He is the distinguished Loma, a dairy cow with a strong will of his own, at the mercy of factory farming. “Our relationship with nature is no longer working.”
A calf was born on a dairy farm near Kent, UK. Mother Loma gives birth to her daughter Malu. “It’s a girl,” shouted the staff. Good thing too. The boy will be executed on the spot.
Malu is then separated from her mother and placed in a stable alone, while mother Loma – whose umbilical cord is still hanging from behind – is immediately chained to a milking machine. While Loma is serving milk, a maid tries to trick Malo into drinking from a bottle with a large artificial udder. Moments later, Loma stares at Malo from a distance. Distance seems to hurt her. She looks at the camera and makes a sermon.
This is a sweet cow life, filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Fishbowl2009; American honey, 2016) to whisper. Endless agony with a difficult moment of happiness at times. But a cow Not a pamphlet against factory farming. Arnold shares the cyclical life of a dairy cow without judging the viewer. She had photographer Magda Kowalczyk film at the height of a cow, from Loma’s perspective, so the viewer could get to know the cow – as closely as possible.
During a video call from her home in London, Arnold (with her dog Sharon sometimes crawling on her lap) explained that finding a suitable dairy farmer took some time. “Most of the dairy farms we approached were like, ‘What is this?’ “We were always honest with the farmers. I didn’t want to end up in a situation where we were going to make something the farmer didn’t know, I hated it. The staff of the farm we ended up on were very open and helpful.”
Although it is your first documentary, a cow In line with your previous fantasy films. in Fishbowl And the American honey Also focus on the characters trying to escape their stifling lives. “yes, a cow Fits well with that list. They are all of the same kind of stories. There is also a lot of me in this movie. My friends tell me it’s my most personal movie.”
I mentioned in previous interviews that there were people in their fifties or sixties, when they saw a cow I was surprised what the life of a dairy cow is. Did these reactions surprise you? “Maybe because I knew it myself. I had a job researching dairy farms. So I knew less about industrial farming than the average person. But I think most people know nothing about this. Where should they encounter it? As a child, you are introduced For all kinds of cozy fairy tales about old MacDonald’s and lovable cows. I think there really are such farms, but that’s not the main fact – because this is large scale farming. On the farm we filmed on, the farmer said he sometimes shows kids around town who don’t even know That milk comes from the udder. He said that some children think that if you cut off the tail of a cow, the milk comes out.”
However, nowadays there seems to be more interest in where our food comes from. “We’re more aware of our relationship with nature and how things like this work. We’re becoming very aware of that, where problems pile up. Our relationship with nature is no longer working. We have to ask questions about it and change things. For decades, meat and milk have been popping up in stores without us even thinking about it.” its source.”
The most beautiful clips in your movie are the ones where nature takes its course, for example when the cows are allowed out in the spring. The animals look really cheerful. “They love it, and you can see it. I find it wonderful how they somehow seem to know in the morning that they can go out that day. It is said that animals don’t care about the future, but I feel they can. When I see cows in the meadow, I think too.” : This is their true calling. If the world were different, this would always be their place, just like it outside. However, due to climate problems, it might be the case that the cows would have to stay in the barn all year round in order to reduce methane emissions I sincerely hope they find another solution for that.”
During those free moments in nature, you also see that each cow has its own consciousness; They are individuals. This is a big theme in your movie. Can you explain to us how to get to know Lama without constantly offering our thoughts to her? “I thought deeply about how I wanted to portray Lama. It’s impossible to really get into her head – I don’t know what’s going on in your head now and you don’t. But we have empathy and imagination. And that helps us, as sentient beings. What I’m trying in the movie is to make the invisible visible. I didn’t want the viewer to become her, I wanted to see how Loma sees the world. For example, we moved the camera left to right from her perspective when she was looking at something.”
Her eyes are expressive too. “They can tell you a lot: whether she is afraid or calm; cautious or frustrated.”
Can you describe how you found Lama? What drew you to her? Anyway, our options were limited, because I was looking for a pregnant cow. But she had a striking head. A beautiful shade of white, with black edging around her eyes. When I saw it, it felt like a gift. Also because you can discern them so well in the herd.”
You can also see this with the staff, who chose Luma in a very short time. “Yes, they do not know all cows, but cows with a strong character stand out. I once read somewhere that cows with a name produce five hundred extra liters of milk per year. Why is that? Attention? I don’t know, but it makes sense. I see it too On my dog: If you approach her in a positive way, she’s happier. So there has to be some truth in that.”
Before you start shooting, have you also thought about the ethical side of photographing an animal? There is one moment when Loma hits her head with the camera, but other times she seems to be enjoying the shoot. “They’re used to having people around anyway. On top of that, I usually shoot with a small crew, often just the two of me. I feel like Loma got to know us along the way. Even though we weren’t there more than we were. – For four years we were there about 25 days a year. But when we were there, we gave her her attention. She felt as though she felt like we were seeing her. I’m not quite sure what that means concretely – What exactly is being seen? There are also many people who haven’t Nobody’s seen them before. They might be rare to be seen in real life. We break our lives with our thoughts and frustrations, we’re busy with a lot at once all the time. Anyway, watching is about being an observer, reacting to someone’s behavior. When Looking back four years after filming, I saw Loma’s attitude towards us as a bit of a revelation: I really felt like we saw her.”