PULSE looks at human-animal relations through the setting of one of Europe’s largest deer farms – home to more than 1,500 red deer. The animals were first caught in the Hungarian forests 25 years ago and are essentially still wild.
Interview with Writer/Director Robin Petré
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
To an extent PULSE is the product of my own personal and lifelong fascination with animals. Before I found the Hungarian deer farm where the film is shot, I had long been drawn to making a film about animals in relation to humans. The deer farm showed to be a rich microcosm reflecting layers of both connection and dissonance between the semi-wild deer and the farmers keeping them. In a sense it reflects my own ambivalent feelings towards the way we humans coexist with all other life on planet Earth.
My aim was to make the film in a way that wasn’t educating my audience, but inviting them to think for themselves and ultimately draw their own conclusions and feel what might intuitively come to them. I wanted to leave enough room for them to do so, hence there are only very few words in the film – it is almost rid of human language, written and spoken. The film is full of sound – just not in the form of words.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This film will be the closest you have ever come to these fascinating animals – both physically and emotionally. It might even be the closets you have ever felt to any animal.
The entire film is a highly sensorial piece structured as a journey through different emotions: from anxiety, through exuberance, calm, fear, relief, harmony…
We stay with the deer throughout the film, following them on such an intimate level that it is the constructed and artificial world of the human that suddenly appears unfamiliar and distorted.
You should watch the film to escape into another world and experience the feeling of being a deer. And you should watch it to gain a new perspective on farm animals and our relation to them.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
There is definitely a tension between freedom and constriction transcending the film, which is something that resonates strongly with me. Following the life of those deer, and allowing oneself the empathy necessary to become part of their experience, would likely stir a universal longing for freedom that sits deeply in most of us.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I was alternately shooting and editing different scenes, and it was a crooked path to the final result. Initially, I spent a lot of time interviewing and following the farmers with the aim of making a film that sort of balances the human and the animal points of view. The editing process took shape gradually in between shootings. As the process went on, I came to realize that the real power of the film lies in the animal experience, and this became the main focus of the film.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The greatest achievement for me in terms of feedback is to see how PULSE is able to engage and move so many different audiences – all kinds of people have come to me with their appreciation, telling me that the film has really touched and surprised them. Several people told me that they have never seen anything like this before.
I am really grateful for all the positive feedback I have received so far, and really excited to see how the film is able to touch so many. I think this is the greatest reward you can get as a filmmaker: having felt something deeply and knowing you were able to pass that feeling on to someone else.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Actually, yes. At some point when I first started the project I admittedly thought an animal film like this might appeal only to a smaller niche audience, but I am positively surprised that I was wrong.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope to reach more audiences and increase the attention around PULSE. I also hope to connect with other film professionals who are interested in creative documentaries, or other artists inspired by themes of nature, environment, animals.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I would be happy to collaborate with distributors and to connect with festival directors, sales agents and buyers – or journalists interested in my work.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
With PULSE, my aim is to make people feel – emotion is stronger than rational thought. However, I would love to also bring people to consider the way we live alongside other animals. Sometimes it seems we have almost forgotten, but we ARE nature.
The “strangeness” of the deer farm lends the film a curious quality, which I think has a significant impact. Most of us are simply used to seeing deer in the forest, not on a farm. When you really think about it, all of today’s domestic species started somewhat like the deer: our ancestors once caught them in wild, started breeding and controlling them, and through generations altered them for their own purpose and benefit.
The difference is that those Hungarian deer shown in my film weren’t caught thousands of years ago, but 25 years ago. To see deer – instead of cattle or sheep – in a farm setting is still something that most of us would consider peculiar, perhaps even bizarre, especially considering the strong symbol of freedom and wildness that the deer represents in our culture.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I’m hinting at it above: it would be wonderful to spark a debate and add to the ongoing discourse on human-animal relations with this film. By this I mean how all of us relate to nature as a whole, and not so much how the individual farmer lives alongside his animals.
The science of animal intelligence and emotion is coming up with so many interesting results these days that it’s hard not to be curious about what’s going on inside the minds of our fellow creatures in the world – just look to your own pet. Animals are incredibly interesting to me and I never get tired of studying them, and I hope to inspire other people to be curious about animals, too.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently in the early stages of the development of a new film that will be rooted in our relation to nature and ultimately to the environmental challenges of our time. I can’t say much more at this moment, though.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Length: 26 min.
Director: Robin Petré
Producer: Doc Nomads
Writer: Robin Petré
About the writer/director: Robin Petré is an independent documentary filmmaker born in Denmark, 1985. With her roots in the rough and scenic lands of Scandinavia, she often finds inspiration in nature. More info:
About the producer: Spread across Hungary, Belgium and Portugal, Doc Nomads is Europe’s traveling film school, and the producer of countless alumni films including PULSE.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Distributors, to allow this film the exposure it deserves. Also film festival programmers or directors, sales agents, buyers and even producers (the latter for upcoming projects).
Funders: Doc Nomads
Made in association with: Doc Nomads
Release date: April 2016
Where can I watch it? The film is still going around festivals, and it recently screened at Visions du Réel and Sheffield Doc/Fest. I am planning to make it available on an on-demand streaming platform at the end of its festival journey.