Night Herons is a film which considers the relationship between humans and forest animals – and all non-human nature, represented by Poland’s woodlands and swamps. The narrative draws on Poland’s history and literature as well as on some ancient traditions and rituals – it collapses the past and the present, seeking redemption for atrocities against animals and men.
The film by Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman affirms a communion with non-human beings, with the world of animals, and with nature, of which humans are part, not the opposites. Their vision refers to posthumanism, a philosophical direction developed in response to emerging technologies and discoveries in bioscience that have eclipsed the traditional model of the human established by Enlightenment philosophy. It is a vision of a posthuman condition that challenges the concept of man as the fixed center of the universe and the measure of all things. A prominent theorist, Donna J. Haraway argues, “Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear-sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture.”1
Night Herons is also a reflection on nature as a silent witness to history. The swamps with their nourishing roots became a shelter for Dzidek and his mother escaping imminent death during the Holocaust – similarly to wetlands nourishing Maroon communities of runaway slaves in the Americas. Yet, nature is indifferent – Dzidek must survive among other living bodies, in the wilderness where night herons, said to escort the dead to the afterlife, hunt after dark. Their anthropomorphization introduces the main theme of the work, referred to in its epigraph “All bodies agree in certain things”2 (Spinoza). In Night Herons – a reflection on human history and timeless nature – the human and animal deaths are one. […]
The whole version of the text above by Monika Fabijanska is available here.
1 Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991: 152
2 Spinoza, B. “Ethics,” Part II, Proposition 13 (E IIP13L2). The Collected Works of Spinoza., ed. E. Curley. Vol. l. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.