2017 • Poland • 128 min.
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Screenwriter: Olga Tokarczuk & Agnieszka Holland
Cast: Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, Wiktor Zborowski, Jakub Gierszal, Patrycja Volny
March 24, 2018 @ 2:15 pm
Harvard Film Archive
Janina Duszejko (a remarkable Agnieszka Mandat), an elderly retired engineer, is a part-time teacher and a full-time protector of animals who lives alone in a small mountain village near the Czech-Polish border. A staunch nonconformist who regularly speaks truth to power, she’s become an outcast among certain circles. One day, her cherished dogs go missing. Duszejko has regularly gotten into confrontations with poachers in the area, and she fears the worst. Soon, the poachers themselves begin to turn up dead along with some neighbourhood authority figures under highly unnatural circumstances, always with animal tracks found around the bodies. Sometimes a deer. Other times a boar. Could the animals finally be taking their revenge?
A beguiling and eccentric work of paralyzing beauty, Spoor also happens to be one of the most unconventional animal-rights films you could ever hope to see – let alone as a work of genre storytelling. Marking the big-screen return of one of Polish Cinema’s national treasures, Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa, The Secret Garden), still such a vibrant filmmaker at nearly 70 years of age, it’s an anguished cry against a fundamental disrespect for living things, yet it glows with love and personality, and an enchantingly quirky sense of humour runs through it. More than that, Spoor is a genuinely radical film, to the extent that some have labeled it dangerous (you’ll understand why when you see it). Holland, who’s joked that Spoor should be called “no country for old women,” has said that she hadn’t set out to make a political film, but somewhat unintentionally wound up telling a story about a male authoritarian agenda that attacked women’s rights and environmental protection. Whether guided by subconscious or calculation, Spoor is a fantastically subversive film that is very much of the moment. Its existence is something to celebrate.