5th October 2017 8.45pm at empire
7th October 2017 12.00am at Ciné Lumière
Carnivores, look away now! In the latest exploit by Polish film and television director Agnieszka Holland, we are dropped into a desolate valley in the foresty mountains of Poland. This area hosts Janina Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka), who insists that hunting animals is equal to hunting humans – the only such opinion in a hunting community. When the hunters, one-by-one, are murdered and their bodies found in the forest, Duszejko swears it’s the animals taking their vengeance. But no one, save a small group of friends, pays her any attention.
Spoor bears a lot of resemblance to a Coen Brothers neo-noir, most obviously Fargo, in its (initially) black humour and cold setting. But the murders aren’t the primary focus, appearing as not much more than a backdrop to the characters – each vividly explored through Duszejko’s unreliable eyes. All the characters possess unique and funny idiosyncrasies, but there are far too many; and when the murder-plot finally catches up with them, the ending feels rough and out of place.
The film tries to juggle many messages at once and can’t decide what it wants to be. In its heart, it’s a Nordic noir – but it’s also part-romance, part-horror, part-psychological thriller, and part-polemic about hunting. It’s a lot to cram in, and only results in an overly long mess of a movie. The characters are fun to watch and Mandat-Grabka is strangely excellent as Duszejko, but without a clear direction Spoor doesn’t work as well as Holland wants it to.
The real stars are cinematographers Jolanta Dylewska and Rafal Paradowski, who create breathtaking visuals within and above the Polish wilderness. There’s a natural majesty about the desolation, and one ponders whether it would be a nice place to live out one’s life (leaving the murders aside). It could make viewers forget the movie’s patent deficiencies; if the story doesn’t grab them, the visuals might.
Spoor is an inadequate film pretending to be profound. Holland loses control of the narrative and, despite the distinctly surreal environment, it drowns in its own silliness. Rewatch Fargo instead.
Pokot (Spoor) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Pokot (Spoor) here: