Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) are sisters readying themselves for the haphazard leap into adulthood, and like many teenagers before them their first step in that direction involves musicians. They’re doing it a bit differently though in that before they can take that step they need to exit the river and dry out enough so that their long, scaly, mermaid tails can transform into legs.
Then they join a band.
The nightclub where the band performs takes on the sisters as sexy backup singers who end their set by stripping, jumping into a big bowl of water, and turning back into mermaids before the drunken, awestruck crowd. They’re popular too, but trouble arises when Silver falls for the young, mop-topped bassist. He’s into her too, but her lack of a vagina (or an anus) means he’s not “into her” like he wants to be – she has a slit in her tail, but the less said about that the better. Golden meanwhile eschews matter of the heart except when it comes to seducing men, taking them to a secluded spot, and tearing out their heart for a snack. So yeah, the band’s lineup looks to be changing again soon.
From the illustrated opening credits to the infusion of magical realism into the Warsaw nightclub scene, The Lure makes it abundantly clear that this world exists a little to the left of reality. The addition of musical numbers – musical numbers! – feels like a natural fit. (More musicals should take the magical realism route as it least that could explain how strangers suddenly know all the same lyrics and dance moves.) Some are moody affairs as one sister or the other moves seductively within the frame while the world around them is paused as if in a dream, but others, including a big, jauntily-choreographed clothes-shopping trip fill the screen with energy and color. It all works together to create a dark fairy tale quite unlike any we’ve seen before.
Director Agnieszka Smoczynska, working from Robert Bolesto’s script, delivers a film filled with surprises that alternate from the amusing to the grotesque with plenty of time spent dangerously circling the erogenous zones. The sisters look young (both actresses are in their twenties) and spend much of the film in the nude. To be fair, sometimes they’re all fish from the waist down, but even that adds to their portrayal as nubile creatures. With a tail they’re seductive sirens, and without they’re smooth, hairless (from the neck down) beauties who occasionally grow fangs and speak using clicks inaudible to those around them.
It’s a beautifully-shot tale too with the production design capturing the spirit of ’80s Poland while Smoczynska and cinematographer Jakub Kijowski offer up gorgeous, picturesque shots and scenes. The film’s energy is tightly controlled to roll across the screen in waves as we cycle between terror, comedy, and just plain nuttiness, and there’s no shortage of things here to engage our senses.
The cast is entirely game for the constant stream of absurd situations, and both Mazurek and Olszanska handle both their innocence and savagery convincingly. We’re not given much to grasp onto with either of them emotionally or character-wise – they’ve been to Bulgaria and are planning a swim to the United States, one craves human affection while the other’s just hungry for flesh – but their appearance, behaviors, and breaks into song keep us mesmerized throughout.
I’d be lying if I said I understood everything the film wants to say – an oddly disconnected musical number that appears to be about drug rehab stands out – but it’s unclear if it’s a failure in the script or just a problem for foreigners. Some of it quite possibly could come down to cultural differences. These handful of scenes don’t hurt the film, but we’re forced to simply chalk them up to local absurdities without really grasping their presumed importance.
The Lure is an adult fairy tale that would make the Brothers Grimm blush, but there’s no doubt they’d be secretly proud as well.
Related Topics: Sundance