words by Scott Murphy
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Cast: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, Jakub Gierszal
Running Time: 92mins
Agnieszka Smoczynska’s “The Lure” is much like the “The Little Mermaid”. I mean that is if that film involved the devouring of men’s hearts, weird lesbian mermaid sex, strippers and disco numbers. While you may think the comparison is crazy it is not totally inaccurate as this does involve a mermaid who falls in love and wants to be a human girl although in this movie that is not so easy.
In this story there is also two mermaids, sisters Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek), who are discovered by a group of musicians who work at a nearby Gentlemen’s club. The owner of said club seems remarkably unperturbed by the sight of two mermaids in his establishment and almost immediately puts them to work with the rest of the band as both dancers and backing singers initially.
This is the chirpy part of the film as the sisters experience the joys of dry land and, predictably, are a huge hit at the club whose patrons are mesmerized by these mermaid sisters. This cannot last though as it soon becomes apparent that Golden has no intention of staying on shore for long and wants to swim to America while Silver quickly becomes attached to their new home as well as falling in love with the band’s bassist Mietek (Jakub Gierszal).
There is a lot going on here in genre terms as it throws moments of horror, comedy and drama. It is at its heart a musical though and it is interesting how this is used throughout the film as the style of songs change with the tone of film. So as the girls are discovering the world they are upbeat and poppy but throughout the film the songs become darker and spikier as the film itself gets darker.
As the sister’s first trip outside the club into town is a bright song-and-dance number in the classical musical style but we then run the gamut from new-wave electro-pop to moody indie and in-your-face punk rock.
As it does mix in many genre elements this is maybe a musical for people who don’t actually like musical’s as there is some nasty stuff here as it turns out that the sisters have a somewhat ‘vampiric’ instinct tearing out the throat of their victims and devouring their hearts. Something that Golden has little problem with but Silver is uneasy with as she yearns to be more human.
On Silver it is probably her love story with Mietek that is the plot’s weakest link. Not because of the actors who both plays their roles very well but because their story unfolds in a fairly clichéd fashion and it is somewhat incomprehensible as to why Silver actually falls for Mietek as beyond his pretty boy good looks his character regularly comes across as spineless and uncaring as you are never sure if he actually cares about Silver or not.
In the films native Poland some critics questioned why it was set in the 80’s during Communism and what comment the director is trying to make in using this setting. It does remain unclear if there is any intent to pass some satirical commentary on the Communist era however it certainly adds something aesthetically setting it in this time period. As the club has an off-kilter decayed glamour, a kind of Communist aping of Western 80’s glitz, which clashes starkly with the brutal grayness of the Communist world outside (although even this is given a brightness through the sisters eyes when they first go outside).
The story of Golden is probably most compelling as she has a clear contempt for humans and quite happily bumps off. She also strikes up an entertaining friendship with mythical sea creature Tryton who has lost his horns (one via a fisherman while the other he tore off himself) and is now is the lead singer in a punk rock band. The relationship between the sisters themselves is compelling as well, as well as delivering some of the most poignant moments, they also provide some very funny moment in their frequently acid tongued exchanges.
Overall: While the more conventional story elements let it down a little this is an often hilarious, moving and, at times, totally out-there movie. Part Gothic fairy tale, party new wave rock opera it is a very assured debut and marks Agnieszka Smoczynska as a name to watch in World Cinema.
words by Scott Murphy