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Spoor (2017): Hunters Become the Hunted in Poland



Ghouls track a mysterious serial killer in a remote town in Poland. What is slowly picking off the hunters and poachers? Gabe unpacks this eco-feminist film that features a Lorax-like heroine, who speaks for the wildlife. Kat explains the detrimental effect overhunting has on our environment and the future of our planet.

Sources in this Episode: 'Spoor' review: Agnieszka Holland unleashes an eco-feminist heroine Polish Thriller 'Spoor' Is A Pulpy Murder Story — And A Utopian Fable Fruits of the forest gone: Overhunting of large animals has catastrophic effects on treesWhat Effect Does overhunting have on the environment Other Spoor Reviews: Now on VOD: 'Spoor' Delivers A Revenge Thriller For Animal Lovers SPOOR: When The Hunters Become The Hunted - Film Inquiry


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The Nature Conservancy

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World Wildlife Fund

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Conservation International

Jane Goodall Institute

 

Media from this week's episode:

Spoor (2017)

Janina Duszejko, an elderly woman, lives alone in the Klodzko Valley where a series of mysterious crimes are committed. Duszejko is convinced that she knows who or what is the murderer, but nobody believes her.

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland & Kasia Adamik (collaborating director)

 

Spoor: Polish Eco-Feminist Film Condemns Overhunting by Gabe Castro


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


I think we can all agree that Poison Ivy is not really a villain. She’s an environmental activist. In a world with a city like Gotham, full of creeps and larger than life characters intent on selfish, greedy evil, Poison Ivy seems like a hero. IMHO. This film is Poison Ivy to me. It’s rare for me to say, “Eh okay maybe murder is okay sometimes.” but this film made me think exactly that.


Synopsis:

This eco-noir features a serial killer, stalking the small town of Klodzko Valley and killing off local men. These men are far from innocent, having committed many murders themselves. However, those murders have been of local wildlife. These men are poachers and misogynists, holding the rural village hostage to their whims and regardless of laws. There’s something strange about this particular killer, could it be an animal’s revenge?


This film is adapted from Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which is now being added to my ever growing Eco-Horror To Read list on Goodreads. The film’s Polish title, “Pokot,” refers to the traditional ritual ending of a group hunting expedition, a count of the slaughtered animals, while “Spoor,” derived from Dutch, means the track or scent of an animal. This film follows Duszejko, a woman who lives in a quaint little area of Poland with her dogs. She is upset by the neighbors who hunt constantly. The film features title cards for each season, revealing which animals are up on the chopping block for hunters. Though that doesn’t stop these poachers from picking off whichever animals they feel like. We see many of the wildlife that Poland has to offer from boars, deer, and foxes. We also learn about special insects that live there and only there (meaning this plot of land should be protected). I found myself wondering if there were any Game Wardens around to enforce the laws but this seemed a lawless land of obscene animal murder.


In our heroine, I was reminded of Ragga from The Seer and the Unseen, an environmental advocate, speaking for the hidden people of Iceland - Duszejko was speaking for the animals. When they were injured or died, you could see the emotional toll it took on her, she died with them every time. Throughout the film, we get to know Duszejko and her little town. We meet the hunters and we learn that abuse doesn’t stop at the animals and that justice isn’t available for anyone on two legs or four. She finds comfort in her misfit band of friends, a neighbor with a dark past and growing affection for her, a struggling young shopkeeper in a sticky situation, and a techie with a hidden disability and full of charm, and an equally quirky, nature-obsessed entomologist. They become her tribe.


Then slowly, these evil hunters conveniently start dropping like flies. Duszejko offers a reasonable explanation for this - the animals are having their revenge. Deer hoof prints are found at the scene of one death, while the pheromones of a beetle are found at another. The very same men who were abusing and attacking the natural world were being attacked. She is scoffed at and dismissed as the hunters continue to meet their untimely demise. She informs the detective of events she found online in which bees strategically attacked someone and other instances of animals being put on trial for murder. At some point, you may even believe her.


Then it becomes troubling when we realize that Duszejko may’ve been the last person to see each of these evil men alive. She also happens to have new knowledge of the effects of certain pheromones from her friendship with the friendly entomologist. AND she has a motive in the form of her missing and presumed dead puppies.


Misogyny Vs. the Feminine

This town and the hunters have such little respect for not only animals but also other humans. There’s a disgusting misogynistic element that plays into making Duszejko seem more anti-hero than outright villain. She is caring and unassuming. Each of these hunters makes the grave mistake of not taking her seriously, going so far as to manhandle her in some scenes. In an LA Times article, 'Spoor' review: Agnieszka Holland unleashes an eco-feminist heroine by Katie Walsh, the writer explains the reverent feminism and unique perspective of an older female heroine singlehandedly fighting the patriarchy,

However, and respect due, this is the kind of film that never could never have been made by men. Tokarczuk and Holland give us an older female heroine driven by mysticism, astrology, legend and her primal, personal connection to plants and animals: ancient, feminine ways of knowing that are scoffed at by men. She fights back against this bloodthirsty, exploitative patriarchy, which often seems futile, but as bodies pile up mysteriously, surrounded by insects and animal tracks, it seems like nature is on her side.


I found some interesting notes about the director and Olga Tokarczuk (the author of the novel) about their reception in their country. On NPR, Polish Thriller 'Spoor' Is A Pulpy Murder Story — And A Utopian Fable, John Powers explains, Now 72, Holland left Poland 40 years ago after her films were harshly censored by the Communist Party, beginning a remarkable career in the West that includes everything from Holocaust films to Henry James adaptations to episodes of The Wire. Despite her Nobel, Tokarczuk is hugely controversial in her home country for speaking out against the current Polish government run by the nativist, overtly authoritarian Law and Justice Party. This only strengthens a story about one woman against a monumental patriarchal force of power.