Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fantasia '17 Film Review - Spoor

Janina Dusjezko (Agniezska Madat) is a fierce animal rights advocate who insisted on being referred to by only her right name and you better get the pronunciation correct. The retired civil engineer turned part time school teacher lives outside a town in a remote region of Poland near the Czech border. Her day starts off waking up in her small cabin with her two dogs at her feet. She takes them out for a walk and run then sets about to see what the day will bring. Dusjezko is at odds with many of the villagers and most of the town leaders. Her community is heavily into hunting with the seasonal calendar having a prominent place in the police station. The local priest tells her not to worry about them so much as animals do not have a soul. One of leading townspeople who lives nearby keeps animals in cages alongside his country brothel. Dusjezko is seen as either harmless or annoying with the police and government officials giving her a little time to voice her concerns but mainly avoid her and do not respond to her letters.

The temperature changes with the death of a recluse neighbour who is a poacher. The elderly Matoga (Wiktor Zborowski) who she likes and has a shady past himself tells her of the news leading both to the cabin to investigate. There Dusjezko finds a photo that takes her advocacy to an even higher level. Other members of the local hunting club begin to turn up dead with evidence of animals near the bodies. Dusjezko believes its a sign that the animals are taking their revenge. The law is not so sure as Dusjezko seems to be entangled with these events in some way.

Writer Director Agnieszka Holland blurs right and wrong on a story based on Olga Tokarczuk's novel Driving Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead. The hunters have the law on their side. Hunting serves the purpose of culling herds thus leaving enough resources available for a strong group to survive. Dusjezko sees hunting as murder especially the practice of the local club to poach and kill animals out of season. She has support from her Matoga, local police I.T. wiz Dyzio (Jakob Gierszal) and a local girl who she calls good news (Patricia Volny).

Madat's performance is the skeleton and muscles on which the piece is built. Her impassioned pleas to anyone that will listen is touching and valid but in increasing exchanges ventures towards hysteria. Miroslav Krobot's entomologist Boros appears part way through the film. He may be the only character more passionate about animals then Dusjezko. He's studying cucujus beetles for the local Czech University considering deforestation that upsets the beetles larvae a holocaust.

Spoor is a murder mystery set in a remote Polish Valley. At first animals are being killed unjustly in some eyes. Then the victims switch to humans all from the same hunting club. The hunting calendar serves as the introduction of each new chapter announcing the type of animal that is now in season. Lead by an impassioned performance by Agniezska Madat the narrative is a compelling piece of film work that is well worth a watch.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Spoor | Agnieszka Holland | Poland/ Germany/ Czech / Sweden / Slovakia | 2017 | 128 Minutes.

Tags: Klodzko Valley, Hunting Club, Hunter's Calendar, Poachers, English Teacher, Deer, Boar, Beetles, Caged, Murder, Arrest, Astrology, Epilepsy.

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