Toronto After Dark 2016: The Lure -Agnieszka Smoczynska

The last night of the Toronto After Dark film festival got underway at Scotiabank Theatre with the Polish musical/drama/horror The Lure.

Taking its cues from the original Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Little Mermaid, as well as playing with mermaid mythology this one toys with expectations, sexuality and strange lyrics in a kind of fevered dream that seems to lose a little in translation.

Two sisters, Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) come ashore in Warsaw, are taken in by a cabaret band, and begin their own act in an adult-themed bar, where their transformation into part aquatic animal (more eel than fish) is a huge crowd-pleaser, and generates all manner of excitement when they perform. Although, I think this may in fact be a nod to the old legends of the Sirens, their voices, and their appearance captivates.

Much like the Anderson tale, one of the mermaids, Silver, falls in love with a human boy, but doing so causes her to sacrifice her aquatic ability, and her voice, and if he doesn’t return her love, or he marries someone else, she will be reduced to sea foam on the morning after – a familiar moment from the original story.

Golden, however, has no such hangups when it comes to the human race, and would rather just feed on them. And I found her character the more appealing of the two, because she has no illusions about who she is, nor does she make apologies for it.

lure

The story plays out exactly as you would expect it, especially if you are familiar with Anderson’s tale, but definitely with more nudity, and is it bestiality if it’s a mermaid?

There is blood, breasts, and songs that just don’t work so well, but are probably lost in the translation. I understand why there is music there, but the songs don’t work outside of their original Polish.

The pacing, and style of the film are very European, and it can no doubt be jarring, or throw a Western audience, but for the most part it works, and the best word to describe this film is interesting.

It plays as an adult fairy tale, and the two leads are engaging, though Olszanska is the stronger of the two, and you just want to see her rip through the humans around her.

The practical effects, i.e. the lower half of the mermaids’ bodies when they show their aquatic nature, are nicely executed, and I think the only thing I really would have wanted to see would have been a protracted swimming sequence and seeing those tails actually work, moving them through the water.

A unique and interesting choice for the penultimate film of the festival, and while not for everyone, it was… interesting.

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