Berlinale 2017: Outstanding Anti-Hunting Polish Dark Comedy 'Spoor'
by Alex Billington
February 12, 2017
Vegetarian vengeance! I don't even know how to begin to describe how much I loved this film. Spoor, also known as Pokot originally, is a film from Poland about an elderly former teacher who lives in a small town. She loves her two adorable dogs, but one day they go missing, and thus begins this thrilling story of animal lover vengeance. The cinematography in this film is STUNNING, some of the best since The Revenant, and I really mean that. Along with an incredibly unique score from Antoni Lazarkiewicz, and exceptional lead performance by Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, this won't be a film you forget. And that isn't even the half of it - there's so much I loved, and even if I can't describe it all perfectly, I hope my enthusiasm is apparent.
Written and directed by veteran Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland (who has an immense amount of skill as a visual storyteller), Spoor is an impressive mix of genres - eco-thriller, dark comedy, mystery, with some romance thrown in for good measure. It feels like Holland really connected to this story personally, and had so much to say. Mainly that hunting is a sick sport more often than not perpetuated by heartless individuals who value their ego more than the lives of animals. This also clashes with some of the strong religious notions in Poland, which are addressed in a few hilarious scenes. It has a number of moments that made me want to start applauding right away. There's definitely a cathartic feeling to this film, but it never overindulges on that feeling, and instead encourages the audience to viscerally connect with her message.
Spoor is really all about actress Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka playing Duszejko, a character that most people in the town often write off. But she's sneaky and passionate and loves animals and is tired of being treated this way by everyone. The attention-to-detail in each and every scene enhances her character and adds an extra layer to the story at hand, even if the detail doesn't actually come into play. But it's still there and it can still be appreciated, especially thanks to the near perfect cinematography by DPs Jolanta Dylewska & Rafał Paradowski. From the opening shots to the framing throughout, this film is on a whole other level, worthy of being compared to the best of the best in terms of visual excellence. I'm in love with the cinematography.
Beyond all the technical aspects, there's a mesmerizing side to the script that makes you wonder whether the animals are getting vengeance on all the hunters. Thanks primarily to the way Holland shoots and presents each scene, even after it's all over, you're still curious about whether there's a mystical side to this story. It's infused with so much love for all life, that we should treat all animals with respect, animal lovers will feel so deeply connected to this and extrapolate even bigger ideas from it. There are a couple of almost too-obvious on-the-nose moments that will upset some critics, but they didn't bother me. These are the only little details that could be picked at, but the rest is brilliant. An exciting film that animal lovers will instantly embrace.
Alex's Berlinale 2017 Rating: 9.5 out of 10
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