In a world where money and fame supersede everything else, we are introduced to a seemingly absurd tale of the world’s richest dog. Viewers are left gawking at the eccentric tale of Gunther and his handler, who manages the amassed wealth. However, the activities done in the name of the innocent dog soon take a turn for the worse. Despite that, we wonder how a dog can be left with enough money to last a multitude of lifetimes and generations to come. The documentary narrates the origin story of Gunther in four episodes. Created by Emilie Dumay and Aurelien Leturgie, the story goes in circles to unleash a plethora of secrets that have been circulating in the media for years. We finally get an insight into how the precious pet enjoys his life with private jets and caviar for breakfast.
The titular pet Gunther comes from a lineage of high-pedigree German Shepherds, and inherited a massive amount of money from his owner. The trust fund in his name started with about a hundred million dollars, which has grown to be five times that amount. The story keeps shifting regions, from Italy and Tuscany to Miami and the Bahamas. Various current and former employees of the Gunther Corporation make appearances to share their experiences and their understanding of the whole story. Carlotta Liebenstein was a German Countess who loved her dog, Gunther. After her husband’s death, she had no close relatives who could inherit the wealth. So, she decided to name Gunther IV as the beneficiary of her wealth, along with a caretaker or handler who would manage the real deal. Presently, Gunther VI is enjoying his family’s wealth and living a flamboyant life. They made sure Gunther was well-bred to be at the top of his lineage at all times.
The real ramifications of this tale and its legacy are plenty, and they all begin with Gunther’s handler, Maurizio Mian. He is the true visionary and mastermind behind every scandal and controversy that follows (believe us, they are abundant). Mian’s mother was in the pharmaceutical business, and so was the Countess’s husband. The two families met and bonded well over their love for animals and dogs. Eventually, when it came to naming a caretaker for Gunther, the Countess asked Gabriella Mian to shoulder the responsibility. Subsequently, Gabriella gave way to her son, Maurizio, to take over the job. The Countess and her husband had a wonderful son named Gunther as well. He suffered bouts of depression and ultimately died by suicide at the age of 26. Moreover, he had become very close friends with Maurizio, and they shared their love for glamor, fame, entertainment, and just the feeling of being happy.
To this extent, Maurizio started finding ways of garnering media attention and getting Gunther’s story told to millions of people across the globe. His wealth started getting in the limelight as well. More than anything, the Countess had seemingly left instructions for how the dog was to be taken care of and how the money had to be utilized. In the 2000s, Maurizio began a band and released a song that was basically an anthem for joy. He always aspired to follow the American dream and hence, went on to live in Miami. Under Gunther’s facade, Maurizio actually fulfilled all his dreams and aspirations. Maurizio bought Madonna’s Miami house under Gunther’s name. This was eventually used for the other beneficiaries in the agreement. While Gunther was always to be the first-served beneficiary, the Countess wanted a group of individuals around Gunther to entertain and enjoy themselves. The group came to be known as The Burgundians and included five people who were beautiful and vibrant.
In reality, Maurizio had a plan in mind for The Burgundians. He wanted to conduct a scientific experiment to explore the pursuit of happiness and what drives joy in people. He began observing the group members as subjects and analyzed what made them happy. Many people and even the media saw this as a twisted sex cult where power and beauty were all that mattered. Maurizio wanted to create a new line of humans from these five extraordinary human specimens. We are led to believe that this is tied to the Countess’s son’s suicide, as she wanted to dive deeper into knowing what happened to her son. He had had everything he could ever want in life—all the freedom, all the money. Yet something terrible drove him to give up living. Even Maurizio held the experiment very close to his heart.
Interestingly, the Countess left 13 commandments that were to be followed for the group to attain happiness and succeed in the experiment. Astoundingly, everything was connected back to sex and the joy derived from it. It was absolutely valid for people to wonder if this was a sex cult. The commandments and the experiments corroborated that fact. The whole story just keeps getting entangled in a web of lies that it itself created. The absurdities of Gunther and his wealth don’t end here. In fact, Gunther seems to be the figurehead of the madness, whereas Maurizio is actually the one with control of the reins. Even the members of The Burgundians saw their life getting morphed from glamor and freedom into constant surveillance and answering intrusive questions about their sex drive and partners. While we can’t claim that the cult was exclusively for sex, we know that it promoted a sense of perfection within its members. From being physically fit and beautiful to having sex and maintaining a relationship with others, everything in the study was aimed at finding what makes people happiest. Surprisingly, there were no facilities for mental health or counseling for the group members. Happiness indeed starts from within, and the study showed no effort to involve the mental well-being of the subjects. Jumbled and confusing feelings started to take over the group, leading to conflicts and love triangles. Complaints from the neighbors eventually got them to shut the villa down.
Maurizio shifted the entire operation to Italy in 2001. He took the experiment to another level by involving famous celebrities and people that will actually shine in the spotlight. They even opened a nightclub to observe people in their state of absolute happiness. It later moved to sports and soccer teams. It seems like what Maurizio did was only to get attention and focus from the media. He always wanted to be in the limelight and be known across the world for something magnificent. Maurizio hired two very famous porn stars of that time to be presidents of his soccer teams. The underlying concept found in every action is Maurizio’s advocacy for sexuality and sexual freedom. He believes they are the two cornerstones in happiness before wealth because money is bound to end at some point. However, sexual pleasure takes root within and brings ecstatic joy to the soul.
Since the beginning of this story, something always stood out and never quite fit into the bigger picture. The interviewers in the documentary did an excellent job of getting to the bottom of the whole shenanigan. Maurizio finally revealed how he and his mother came to be the caretakers of such massive wealth. In actuality, Maurizio’s family owned a Pharmaceutical company that amassed spiking profits after their invention of a drug that helps recover bone density. So, to evade taxes on the profits, Gabriella Mian sheltered money in the Liechtenstein bank overseas and also transferred it to a trusted foreigner’s name – Carlotta Liebenstein. In this mind-blowing revelation, the dog truly ends up being just a cover to protect the Mian family and their secrets. This threatens to unravel the other aspects of the entire story, as everything is tied to the Countess, to begin with—the experiment, Gunther’s luxury life, and the 13 commandments. The Countess was only a way for them to protect their assets and stay out of jail.
Maurizio goes on to reveal some more wild aspects of his experiment in the quest to find happiness. The 13 commandments gave way to the Edo disk, which calculated feelings based on five primary factors, and eventually, the Gunther model, which is based on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maurizio’s primary aim is to defog the concept of depression and find how people can be inherently happy. This way, nobody will have to give up on life as his best friend did. This quest to find reasons behind happiness became like an obsession for Maurizio. Nobody around him understood why he kept at it. And then, finally, Maurizio opened up to reveal the most shocking revelation.
Everyone always questioned the reality of the Countess, as no real evidence pointed toward her existence. While she seemingly added the 13 commandments for the experiment, it was very unusual for Maurizio to take it so far ahead that the experiment aspired to create an elevated species of humans—a new and improved race altogether. Thus, when Maurizio is asked whether the Countess is real, he gives the real answer and shuts down the rumors once and for all. The Countess is not real; it is just some woman who knows her way around taxes and finances to help Gabriella with evading taxes, whereas Gunther, the dog, actually belonged to Maurizio’s ex-girlfriend Antonella. Furthermore, the son of the Countess is an avatar, an extrapolation of Maurizio’s own psyche, as he suffered a lot of pain and hurt in his life. He has been depressed for most part of his life and dealt with his disappointed parents as he couldn’t be what they wanted him to be. Furthermore, Maurizio revealed that the 13 commandments and the Edo Disk are born out of his ideas of how a happy life could look like. The aspects that can help a person be joyful in life are encapsulated in these facets. So, he found a way to research and observe people under this pretense.
Maurizio could have come up with this intricate tale for two reasons. One, to protect his feelings and his image in public, as dealing with depression and bipolar disorder was not something people openly expressed. It could also be a way to legitimize the whole human social experiment to examine happiness and joy in people. Such a story is bound to attract media attention and recognition from across the globe. Who wouldn’t want to hear more about a dog richer than the majority of the living human population? Secondly, this could give way to Gabriella evading taxes while still having control over their money. It seems like an unbelievable plan to funnel money in a different avenue where no one will think to look.
In conclusion, the viewers are bound to take off their hats and bow in respect, as Maurizio pulled off such a monumental sham with a rich dog and human experiments. Though it is sad to learn about his struggles with his mental health, which led him to make up a story emblematic of his personal journey, He admitted to being fascinated with the idea of suicide and giving up life in his 20s. The Countess and Gunther story is Maurizio’s way of coping with his intimate feelings and illnesses. By projecting his innermost issues, he found a way to move forward in life while finding a solution to a very common matter. In the end, Maurizio finds a way to use the money for good and aspires to open an animal sanctuary on a private island. The richest dog in the world, Gunther, is so much more than his wealth. He is a symbol of love and happiness, as he helped Maurizio get out of some tough situations in life. Gunther is the best friend Maurizio has always hoped for. The entire documentary, while revealing some dark secrets and controversies, paints Gunther as synonymous with surviving life and finding delight in the tiniest of things.