We all know hippy women who, after their midlife crisis, become experts in astrology and esotericism. They find it easier to speak to animals than to speak to cruel, selfish humans. They dream of living amongst the flora and fauna in a remote cottage, far away from urban noise. In the middle ages, they were ostracised, labelled witches, now we still ostracise them but we call them crazy cat ladies instead.
Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat) lives in harmony with nature in her cottage in the woods in Southern Poland. The land is controlled by viscous hunters who do not abide by the laws of the land or the laws of nature, killing and torturing any animal in sight. When some of the corrupt hunters are discovered murdered in the forest, the investigations come up short but Duszejko knows that the animals have taken their revenge.
Mandat develops the character fluidly, luring the audience to her side as the voice of reason but often scaring them away with Duszejko’s frenzied love of animals over humans. The actress takes the caricature of the old woman with all the advice who no one listens to, and adds an incredible depth, fleshing the protagonist out into a complex and fascinating creature.
The hunters make for cartoonish villains but only because we are so aligned with the main character’s subjective point of view. The genre changes as effortlessly as the seasons, which adds to the film’s multi-layered nature. Director Agnieszka Holland masterfully juggles riveting thriller elements and a great sense of humour without undermining either genre.
The camera is unleashed and wild, constantly roaming around the space, the woods, flying through the air, displaying breathtaking vistas. Holland captures enthralling tableaux that romanticise nature but also reveal its more brutal side.
The narrative folds several side stories into the mix elegantly and gives even the smallest supporting character his or her own development. The film is deeply rooted in its rural Polish setting and the director doesn’t shy away from criticising the church and the corrupt police either.
This dynamic eco-thriller cum humanist comedy engages its audience on multiple levels and swells its themes together in a stunning finish. Holland has succeeded in creating an eco-conscious thriller that makes fun of itself without losing its credibility or its provocative power.
Pokot (Spoor) does not have a UK release date yet.
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