Duszejko (Agnieska Mandat), without a first name is what the woman protagonist in Agnieszka Holland’s film ‘Spoor’ calls herself, and would prefer others to address her as; a quaint old woman who has taken to teaching English to school children in a lonesome mountain village in the Klodzko Valley in Poland. She used to build bridges once, we are told, hinting of a former career in engineering. Holland sets her film going with the sudden disappearance of Duszejko’s pet dogs, who never return after wandering off on a routine morning stroll with her.
There are the numerous ecological concerns that ‘Spoor’ raises, and Duszejko is a woman who cant take the callousness of the humans around her any more. She isn’t amused that hunting has been accorded a legal status, and the shots that are consistently fired in the woods give her sleepless nights. Duszejko is not merely an animal rights activist, but is equally a humanist, reaching out to a young girl supposedly in distress or a fresh intern at the police department who suffers from seizures.
Holland’s message is loud and clear, and it often manifests itself through frenzied outbursts of the lead, where Duszejko rants on about the absolute indifference of humans to life in other forms, and of how justice would once, inevitably prevail. She is equally captivated by astrology, and has ephemeral flashes of the lives of those around her, that she crafts through her innate judgement on their birth dates and the planet alignments.
There are other statements as well, some of them pronounced, like the one on religion, that it is merely obsessed with the felicity of the human race, and some others of a fleeting nature, like the very brief romantic tryst in summer when Boros (Miroslav Krobot), the researcher entomologist comes visiting from the University, and Duszejko finally finds an ally, and perhaps much more, but one who drives his motor cycle as stealthily away as he has driven in.
And all the while, the deer and the boars scurry around in the bushes and the foxes howl, only to be hushed by a gun shot that reverberates in the dark. The tone of a crime thriller that is set with corpses turning up one after the other, is elevated to an austere level, like when Boros murmurs to Duszejko that ‘its a holocaust’ referring to the mass extermination of a beetle species, what with the trees harboring their larvae being cut down. He throws in a pointer at the political history of the country, that disjointedly connects with the horrifying personal experiences of Matoga (Wiktor Zborowski), Duszejko’s more-than-just-friendly neighbor. ‘Spoor’ does not however maintain this vigor throughout, and with a story line that breaks off every now and then, and at times reiterating an observation all too often, Holland’s film, though with abundant flourishes is far from foolproof.
Verdict: Above Average