A clarion call against the mistreatment of animals and the hunting confederacy of men, against Agnieszka Holland’s Spoor loses its way in the snowy mountains.
Tracksby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Opening with beautiful aerial footage of the snowy landscapes of the Karkonosze mountains on the Polish-Czech border, no expense has been spared on Agnieszka Holland’s latest feature Spoor. And it’s a celebration of nature, witnessed through her conduit Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka), as she walks her dogs across the crepuscular upland meadows, visibly enchanted by the wonders of nature. But this retired engineer and part-time English teacher is at war. With the hunters, poachers and fox-farmers who also call this mountain their home. Encompassing nearly all of the town’s men from the priest to the mayor, it’s a confraternity of hunters in cahoots. The epitome of butchering male might taken on by this lone wolf, when her beloved border collies go missing one day.
Hell hath no fury like a woman, and soon Duszejko has enlisted the help of the local good hearts; put-upon shopkeeper Good News, epilieptic police technician Dyzio and shy neighbour Matoga. It’s a shame then that Spoor veers into a crazed frenzy of admonishment, Holland’s protagonist filled with unwinning notions of astrology and vehement animal welfare campaigning. Transformed into a murder mystery, Spoor loses its way – sacrificing every kind of nuance for bleeding heart sentimentalism and unfounded shots of children in animal masks included purely for their imagistic pleasure.
Ultimately unengaging, Spoor struggles through much of its two-hour running time. But ending with an edenic modern family of lost souls and a vision of Duszejko and her dogs disappearing into fiction, Spoor is a call to arms. Or perhaps rather a plea to down those hunting rifles and let nature well alone.
Spoor premiered at the 67th Berlin Film Festival and is screening at the BFI London Film Festival on 5 and 7 October 2017.