Spoor (Pokot) (Agnieszka Holland, 2017) Poland | Germany | Czech Republic | Sweden | Slovakia

Reviewed by Michael G. Viewed at AFI Fest 2017.

The hunters become the hunted in Agnieszka Holland politically charged thriller centered around animal rights and cruelty. Agnieszka Holland, known for the critically acclaimed Europa Europa (1990), pulls current cultural issues of Poland into the the story by incorporating metaphors and symbolism which connects throughout the film. Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka (playing as Janina Duszejko) plays as a retired teacher who’s activism against animal cruelty begins to impact all areas of her life and those around her.

As the town around her turns a blind eye to the issues of animal rights, Janina find herself alone in a fight to end this violence. Being witness to cruel killings, hunts, savage traps, and snarred animals, Janina can no longer stand in silence and must do something about it. When the town experiences mysterious deaths of these grand hunters, we are left to wonder the possibility that these animals have finally sought much deserved revenge. The story pushes our concept of the possible-if the animals are not killing these hunter’s who is?

Pokot is a polish term which depicts a hunting ceremony of final count-counting the killed animals after a hunt. The hunters would gather with the “kill” collected and would name a “king of the hunt”. It is this tradition that forms the basis of the story that unfolds around Janina, one that pushes the viewer to hate these hunters as almost villainous beasts themselves. Repeating through the film, we are shown animals running for their lives as hunters fire deep percussive gunshots which eventually leads to witnessing the killing of the animal. The impact is deep-Agniezska Holland did a fantastic job making the point hit the audience hard.

It is through these contrasting scenes that the reality of animal cruelty and our blindness to it comes through. Holland depicts a society where the richest and most beautiful people wear opulent leather and fur. The film then cuts against this with the dead carcasses of skinned animals being thrown into a heap as if trash or rubbish. These transitions blend deeply into our emotion as the story unfolds. All of this creates a complete lack of sympathy for the mysteriously murdered hunters who the film has developed into the cruelest of villains.

Overall the film provides a deeply intriguing mystery that twists our compassion for humans and animals alike.

 

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