“The Cow” breaks that unconscious barrier, thanks to a filmmaker who has always proved that he can break through epoch-making dramas like “Fish Tank” and broad, free-spirited street epics like “American Loss”. He has the watchful eye of a documentary. For both everyday small thrills and big pains. Along with his observant cinematographer Magda Kovalkozic, Arnold applies the same caution and non-directional attitude to the “cow” as he does to Luma, a dairy cow that unselfishly provides a great service to mankind with its milk. Of course, the choice does not depend on him — although he takes care of it fairly, Luma actually spends his days in a claustrophobic loop of an unfortunate and aggressive routine in a system designed to take from him what he can.
When he’s put in and out of Ringer’s Day, we never understand what people are mumbling about when he’s around Lumar. Instead, we gradually begin to hear the subtleties in all the differences MuThat brings out Luma. Perhaps part of that identification is the human projection. But then again, there is little doubt about the animal’s suffering when he looks at the camera in one of the film’s most cutting moments and records his protest with several rare voices rising in their frustration and despair.
This does not mean that Arnold is here on a mission to humanize Luma or the other cows around him – thankfully, the filmmaker knows better than to reach the Disney-esque depiction of these animals, although he did add humor to the film from time to time, mostly through some idiosyncratic musical choice. Overall, his style and ambitions are very close to Victor Kosakovsky’s “Hooligan,” a spooky, black-and-white documentary that follows the challenging life of a mother pig, as well as “Leviathan,” by Verena Paravel and Luciane Casting-Nimzan. The lives of commercial fishermen and they mine under water. But while these two titles are more of an experimental aspect that puts the viewer (as well as some of the available emotions) out there, “Cow” takes a more accessible path, despite the relatively long feel. Towards the end of Arnold’s lyrical passion project, one feels deeply connected to the real Luma and his choice, deeply concerned about their well-being in the difficult situation in which they are forced to live.
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