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Andrea Arnold’s long-awaited fifth feature is a remarkable and visceral assault on the senses.

AAndrea Arnold’s films are never easy. She said “people have quite a physical experience with them.” A master of kitchen sink realism, her uncompromising and exploratory style focuses on the experiences of women in stark scenarios struggling for control of their lives. Engaging, painful and beautiful, her work tends to have a visceral sequel, and that’s the case with her first documentary, Cow – a self-proclaimed labor of love.

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The meat and dairy industry is a system that tears families apart, robbing motherhood of its most docile victims. It is under these circumstances that single mother Luma sees her newborn child taken away from her, just hours after giving birth. The camera follows Luma from behind, watching an umbilical cord swing back and forth as his screams get louder and louder.

Her pain is as ineffable as it is expressive, measured through a series of looks and cries that seem to convey anguish. There is no commentary, no narration, and the farm workers are (very briefly) shown in a neutral light, carrying on their work which involves various bodily intrusions, horn burning, forced impregnations and milk extractions. The hyper-specific pop sound of Kali Uchis, Jorja Smith and Mabel echoes from the farm’s radio speakers – a jarring soundtrack to the daily lives of cows in the cramped industrial space.

Shot in Arnold’s signature portable style, which evokes a sense of immediacy, we rest at Luma’s eye level and rarely stray from his vantage point. The presence of the camera is neither invasive nor benign, while the shaky technique of the shakycam accentuates a feeling of nausea and disorientation that sets in very early.

Time, space and mobility are signified by occasional shots of airplanes and birds flying overhead, while the restricted, routine movements of cows in the crowded milking parlor and cattle corral are caught in a state of inertia. Raped and abused for her milk, Luma is ultimately confined and attached to a world she does not belong to.

The Cow won’t be for everyone, but it’s by no means a movie that tells you what to do with it. It is a silent portrait of life in captivity that is radical in its simplicity as it soberly invites viewers to consider the feelings of a sentient, non-human other. His mode of observation prevents him from being didactic or manipulative in any way, and he adopts an intimacy that evokes the deepest empathy. Luma’s pain is never a show.

Of course, the politics of Arnold’s films are never explored conventionally or explicitly. They reside in his sensory techniques, the obscure counter-narratives and the affective capacities of his marginalized subjects. It’s no news to anyone that cows are commodities exploited for profit, and you know from the start how Luma’s story ends, but that doesn’t make the ending any less impactful, and that sentiment stays with you for a while.

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Reference of the Article-post – lwlies