Cow: Andrea Arnold's Documentary Debut
While 2021 saw Michael Sarnoski’s wonderful Pig and the return of Jane Campion with The Power of the Dog, 2022 sees the release of Andrea Arnold’s much anticipated Cow, an astonishingly observed feature and Arnold’s first foray into documentary filmmaking.
Writer-director Andrea Arnold is one of the most celebrated artists of contemporary British cinema. A filmmaker of great authenticity, with a style comparable to the gritty social realists Ken Loach and Alan Clarke, her projects have been widely acclaimed. She has made three short films and four features (Cow will be her fifth), received an Academy Award (for her short Wasp) and has won the Jury Prize at Cannes three times; more than anyone in history bar Loach.
This week, the Showroom is delighted to welcome Andrea Arnold for an in-person Q&A following a screening of Cow. This is a special showing in association with Reclaim the Frame and Birds’ Eye View: a charity that champions women and non-binary filmmakers. It will be hosted by Birds’ Eye View director, Melanie Iredale.
Cow is Arnold’s first feature film since the multi award-winning American Honey in 2016. Shot with a hand-held camera, Cow documents a day in the life of Luma, a cow on a working dairy farm. An immersive and strikingly powerful film, itis captured via a deeply empathetic and unwavering gaze. Its style is similar to Viktor Kosakovsky’s 2020 film Gunda, which follows a sow and her piglets as well as several other farm animal companions.
An intimate exploration of Luma’s life, Cow also continues to explore thematic concerns which weave their way throughout Arnold’s previous work: single mothers, struggling and vulnerable children, and sexual and commercial exploitation. With that in mind, Luma is the ultimate single mother. Constantly pregnant and then separated from her children, she is a figure of exploitation and resilience. While animals have not been the focus of Arnold’s earlier films, they have featured prominently. Red Road’s protagonist, a CCTV camera operator, often wordlessly follows a man with a dog. In Fish Tank, a 15-year-old girl suffers in silence, only expressing her emotion when she hears that a friend’s horse has been put down.
In Cow, several strands of Arnold’s existing work come together in a compassionate, empathetic film. It is a striking documentary-debut from one of the UK’s most interesting and accomplished contemporary filmmakers.
This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on Thursday 13 January 2022