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‘I kept saying – don’t worry Luma, we see you’: Andrea Arnold on her four years filming a cow

The Oscar-winning director’s new documentary explores warmth, joy and anger through the eyes of a farmyard animal. She reveals what it taught her about life

Andrea Arnold’s films are known for their spare dialogue, and in her first documentary it is more pared-backed than ever: Cow consists of 94 minutes of moos, with the odd off-camera interjection from farmhands. It is hardly a thriller (though the ending is pure Tarantino). But it is one of the most beautifully crafted and tender portraits of a life you are likely to see.

Arnold, who started her professional life as a rollerskating TV presenter on the children’s Saturday show No 73, began thinking about documenting an animal’s life nine years ago. Eventually she settled on a cow. “I thought a cow would be interesting because they work so hard, getting pregnant and giving milk their entire lives. It’s a huge job they do.” She chose Luma because she was told she had a big personality and was feisty. Arnold and her team spent four years, on and off, filming her. Why did she make Cow? “I wanted to show a non-human consciousness. I was intrigued as to whether we would be able to see her consciousness if we followed her long enough.”

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