TADFF 2016: The Lure
Imagine for a moment The Little Mermaid, not the colourful Disney version, but Hans Christian Andersen’s original dark fairy tale. The version where “happily ever after” is not a guarantee. Now replace the dashing prince charming with an attractive guitarist from a low-rent bar band, and change the lavish castle to a sleazy, nightclub. Lastly throw in two teenage man-eating mermaids, a slew of musical numbers for good measure, and you will get a small sample of the things that inhabit Agnieszka Smoczynska’s delightfully strange film The Lure.
Using The Little Mermaid template as a guideline, though the film veers in several unexpected directions, more on that in a moment, The Lure introduces us to Silver (Marta Mazurek) and her sister Golden (Michalina Olszanska). Enticed by the a song that guitarist Mietek (Jakuub Gierszal) plays on the beach, the siblings use their only melodic voices to get Mietek to invite them back to shore. Promising not to eat the young man, Silver and Golden are taken back to the nightclub where Mietek works and are immediately hired to be backup singers/strippers by the club’s owner (Zygmunt Malanowicz), who quickly sees the financial potential of exploiting girls whose legs can walk on normal on land, but transform into tails when touched by water.
As their popularity begins to grow at the club, the sisters find their personal desires taking them in different directions. While Silver wants nothing more than to win over the heart of the reluctant Mietek, Golden wants to use her powers to feast on the citizens of the Warsaw community.
Unlike anything one has quite seen before, The Lure is endlessly captivating despite its occasionally messy narrative. The musical numbers-which spans everything from pop ballads to disco to punk-not only carry a catchy tune, but are smartly choreographed as well. Smoczynska’s talents really shine in these scenes as she creates a distinct visual feast for each song in the film. Just as quickly as the style of musical numbers change, so does the story’s overall tone. What starts out as, or appeared to be at least, a menacing horror film evolves into something that straddles the realms of drama and camp.
While it would have been nice if Smoczynska had used the mythology within the film to create a more pointed metaphor, similar to how Ginger Snaps uses lycanthrope to tackle female menstruation and puberty, there is something enticing about the glorious insanity of The Lure. Though it may lack a cohesive plot, there is enough entertaining aspects in the film that it would not be surprising to see The Lure become a cult hit, similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in a few years.