FNE at Berlinale 2017: Review Spoor

2017-02-13
FNE at Berlinale 2017: Review Spoor Pokot by Agnieszka Holland

BERLIN: Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s Spoor /  Pokot arrives in the main competition in Berlin with the considerable weight of Holland’s international reputation behind it not least her current stint directing the hit US TV series House of Cards.

Spoor is a mix of who dun it thriller and magical eco-morality play. It revolves around retired civil engineer Duszejko played by Agnieszka Mandat who lives a secluded life in a mountain village close to the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. She is charismatic and eccentric, a passionate astrologer and a strict vegetarian sharing her life with her dogs. Set against the beautiful backdrop of mountains and nature life seems quiet and uneventful.

Until one day suddenly her beloved dogs disappear and Duszejko suspects they have been deliberately killed. After that things begin to happen and it is impossible not to compare the film to a Polish Fargo. Our heroine next discovers the dead body of her neighbour on a snowy winter’s night and next to it deer tracks.  When more men in the nearby village begin to die in a mysterious way Duszejko is thrust into the role of unofficial investigator of the serial killings.

The men are all pillars of the village community and passionate hunters. Duszejko even suggests to the police that these men could have been killed by wild animals in some kind of magical revenge for the cruel sport. Or has someone been provoked to pursue a bloody vendetta?

Duszejko is a feminist and a passionate advocate for animal rights. The film is based on co-writer Olga Tokarczuk’s novel and reveals the sadism and cruelty of humans towards their fellow creatures.  Even the church comes in for criticism as a priest advocates the moral rightness of killing animals because “they have no souls.”

Shot by DoPs Jolanta Dylewska and Rafał Paradowski against a background of stunning nature the film is worth seeing for the visuals alone.  But Holland builds an atmosphere of obsession and mystery into the story that captivates the viewer and moves the story beyond just an animal rights tale. We are in a deep philosophical analysis about the nature of man.

Holland leads us into deeply disturbing moral territory. If the law does not punish those clearly guilty of horrific crimes how far are we justified in taking the law into our own hands? In the end this provocative film enlists the sympathy of the viewer on the side of a serial killer and no one in the audience could leave the cinema without feeling that the victims deserved to die.

Agnieszka Holland is a filmmaker that still has her roots in a deep sense of morality in the tradition of Polish filmmakers of the 1970s and 1980s.  With over 30 film titles to her credit she has worked with Krzysztof Zanussi whose Tor Studios has produced the film and the recently deceased Andrzej Wajda. She collaborated with Krzysztof Kieslowski on the screenplay of his trilogy, Three Colours and has a string of awards to her name that include the Emmy, Golden Globe, Golden Lion and BAFTA.

This is a mature work by a master filmmaker that asks for the attention of the audience and pays serious dividends for those ready to listen.  Holland was assisted by her daughter Kasia Adamik who gets a co-director credit and the cooperation works seamlessly.  It is really not possible to separate the work of one from the other.  The Holland name is sure to give the film an audience at international festivals and art house cinemas globally.

Spoor / Pokot aka Game Count (Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia)

Directed by Agnieszka Holland in cooperation with Kasia Adamik
Produced by by TOR Film Production in coproduction with Heimatfilm GmbH (Germany), Chimney Group (Sweden) and nutprodukce (Czech Republic), nutprodukcia (Slovak Republic)
Supported by the Polish Film Institute, the MEDIA Programme, the Czech State Cinematography Fund, Eurimages, the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Swedish Film Institute and the Polish-German Co-Development Fund
Sales: Beta Cinema www.betacinema.com
Cast: Agnieszka Mandat, Wiktor Zborowski, Miroslav Krobot, Jakub Gierszał, Patricia Volny, Borys Szyc 

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