Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original title: Pokot
Poland/Germany/Czech Republic/Sweden/Slovakia/France, 2017. Studio Filmowe “Tor”, Heimatfilm, Nutprodukcia, Chimney group, Nutprodukce, Agora, Ceská Televize, Eurimages, Film i Vast, HBO Polska, Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, Odra Film, Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej, ZDF/Arte. Screenplay by Olga Tokarczuk, Agnieszka Holland, based on the novel by Olga Tokarczuk. Cinematography by Jolanta Dylewska, Rafal Paradowski. Produced by Janusz Wachala, Krzysztof Zanussi. Music by Antoni Lazarkiewicz. Production Design by Joanna Macha. Costume Design by Katarzyna Lewinska. Film Editing by Pavel Hrdlicka.
An isolated village in rural Poland is plunged in winter and a mysterious number of deaths begin occurring. Bodies show up in the forest with no evidence of harm except for animal footprints, and the police are baffled as to who has killed these men, exasperated by the constant harassment of a lonely spinster schoolteacher (Agnieszka Mandat) who insists that their deaths are part of the restorative balance of the natural world. Obsessed with horoscopes and very passionate about animal welfare, Mandat chases after hunters and reports them to the police when they are poaching off-season, and is now trying to get the authorities to believe that the men have been killed by animals getting revenge for what has been done to them. There are so many elements worth noting in this absorbing dramatic thriller by Agnieszka Holland that at times you’re not sure if you can handle them all, from the expansively beautiful shots of forests rich with mystery, to the wide panorama of supporting characters surrounding our heroine, to the mindset of the protagonist herself: in private she’s caring, educated and crafty, in public she is constantly overdoing her rantings and it’s hard to know if we can rely on her to take us to a satisfying ending. It’s to Mandat’s credit that she gives a performance that folds all these aspects of the character into a cohesive whole, as bewitching and fascinating as she is offputting and strange. It’s even more to Holland’s credit that, just as you’re worried that she can’t handle all of the film’s elements either, her slick screenplay pulls all the strings together in short order and delivers a very satisfying and concise finish after cleverly distracting you from the truth for two hours.