"Our Daily Bread" Is A Quiet Look At Farm To Fork

The idea of little piglets living out their days in a darkened factory until they're fat enough to be sliced, diced and smoked is, well, uncomfortable. How surprising, then, that discomfort plays only a minor role in the experience of watching "Our Daily Bread." This 2006 German documentary about industrial food production, recently released on DVD, is astonishingly pretty for a film about the journey from farm to fork. Even the ugliest spectacles—like slaughtered pigs, hung by their feet, moving along a mechanized line with a fiery inferno erupting behind them—are mesmerizing.

Despite the gore, "Our Daily Bread" is not a holier-than-thou food manifesto aimed at scaring viewers into vegetarianism. Scenes and images are presented without comment, and the only soundtrack is ambient noise—the dull thud of chicks shot out of a sorting machine like tiny feathered tennis balls; the drone of a low-flying airplane releasing a spray of pesticides on a sunflower field; the workers engaging in mumbled conversation over sandwiches and coffee. The absence of a narrator forces a different kind of engagement—with nothing spelled out, you're left on your own to ask: Is that woman enjoying her lunch break the same one who just languidly clipped hooves off pigs with a giant pair of gardening shears? And is that a hot dog in her hand?