Peter And The Farm

I saw 5 movies today at the New Hampshire Film Festival – Peter And The Farm was the first, and it’s the one I can’t stop thinking about. It isn’t a perfect film; the film makers are having a little too much fun experimenting with their fancy cameras, content to show you their prowess with focus/unfocus on a brightly lit night sky. But they get top marks for subject: A+++.

mv5bmty4odk0nzk4mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmta2njc5ote-_v1_ux477_cr00477268_al_Peter Dunning, farmer, is the star of the documentary. He’s like no one you’ve ever met. He’s an artist who took up farming as way to sustain his art. But farming has overwhelmed his life. He fell in love with it, put it ahead of everything else, neglecting his art, his health, his numerous wives and children, who all have left him. Now it’s just him and the farm, a derelict little operation he has grown to loathe. And the memories that haunt him. And the alcohol that soothes him.

Rarely seen without a bottle of something in his hand, Peter is a legendary story-teller with a bottomless bag of tales to tell, grateful to finally have an audience again. He performs his farm work dutifully but grudgingly, the brutal realities of farm life a lonely cautionary tale. Sean and I agreed that Peter has a philosophical soul, and that that might just be his undoing. Alone on the land, he’s got nothing but quiet hours of drudgery for thinking, thinking, and more thinking. And most of his thoughts revolve around the pointlessness of existence in general, and his life’s work specifically. The only thing that gets him through the day is fantasizing about his suicide.

Peter is an endlessly fascinating character, but he’s a real, flesh and blood man with real demons. This is a documentary, and you can never forget that the stakes are real, and that the man selling you beets at the farmer’s market this Sunday might just be thinking of going home and putting a shotgun in his mouth. The honesty is beautiful but there’s a tormented soul on display, and that’s tougher to watch than the sheep gutting and the cow gynecology. Rural Vermont looks gorgeous but you get a very real sense that this one-time utopia has now turned into a prison and Peter, one way or another, is serving a life sentence.

21 thoughts on “Peter And The Farm

  1. J.

    This sounds quite grim. Must be quite horrendous to find your life swallowed by the very thing you hoped would free you. Jings – I hope he can get out. Alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ridicuryder

    Hay Jay 😉

    Beets are sorta congealed blood tears of the earth and it sounds like Peter is trapped by an obsessive ethic and sense of duty (kinda like nursing).

    A philosophical soul needs to auger into things…put down roots so to speak – as a balance of sorts. This sounds fascinating. I think I would enjoy this documentary.

    Thanks for noting it so well. 🙃



  3. Michael Tanner

    A very intriguing documentary, and one that would feel very close to people for sure. Sounds like addiction plays a central role, first art, then farming, then alcohol. A truly fascinating article.


  4. Jay Post author

    He’s such so fascinating to hear, and to watch. The film’s structure sort of reflects a year on the farm, most depressing during the winter, so a lot of the stuff is hinted at early on but not fully explained until later chapters. And you can watch him work all day long, unless you’re squeamish, and there IS stuff to be squeamish about. His story is crushing, but it’s not a difficult watch.


  5. Joe I.T.

    maybe some were fascinated by this, but my wife and I found:
    1. Inane/ poor rambling dialogue
    2. He hated the animals in his “care” and it showed in multiple ways
    3. Man was totally unlikeable, it got to where we didn’t even care anymore
    4. Callous, not in a reluctant way, but a brutal way

    This wasn’t worth the $7.99 for Comcast. In the theatre we’d walk out and ask for our money back.

    Poorly made. So many good documentaries out there why go see this garbage?


    1. Pike

      I guess you and your wife can’t see past that. I see we’re u are coming from but it’s wrong. U must be far from ever living or feeling or seeing like this man. And about alcohol use alone time being a artist and having a organic farm slaughtering sheep etc. he obviously loves his farm and animals in a deeper way then you and your wife can see. To be a farmer and to slaughter your animals and to be a drunk artists to start a farm in New England like this anyways you have to toughen your skin. The reason why people can connect to this story is for so many different reasons. I myself am a younger person who grew up next to New England on the Hudson from family acossiated severely with people like peter. Peter represents a New England farmer/artists. This documentary did lack one thing I left me wanting to know more story’s and to see more of his art and philosophy’s. I wonder if he trips and such. I see the spiritual deepnness of organic farming and the hell the comes with it. It’s real raw and genuine. Simple and complex. Perhaps everything terrible is,in its deepest essence something helpless that needs love-poet Rainer Maria Rilke. You need darkness for light.light cast shadows. It’s all duality.simplicity is key. He just needs to find a little more of a happy balance to take a load off and he will be fine 😉 I am peter but very different in some aspects and the very same In Others. Peace.


    2. Rick

      I think most people try and become the best version of themselves as we age. But in Peters case – not so. I found Peter to be cruel and unlikable as well. I also found some thing disturbing when he talked about the nude children etc.


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