SFF 2016 Review: The Lure

Sydney Film Festival: The Lure

The Lure posterThe box says “vampire mermaid musical,” and that’s precisely what you get with this ’80s Polish throwback.

Before Disney made her part of our world, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid was filled with some dark turns where the titular character’s very soul was at stake. Poland’s THE LURE draws on the basic elements of this original tale, then takes its own weird journey through a sexy and violent landscape, one that is sharply reminiscent of the outlandish VHS favourites that populated the video stores of the 1980s. Not for nothing, as director Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s bizarre new musical is not only set in that era, but also borrows many of the conventions of the decade.

Two siren mermaids, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Gold (Michalina Olszanska), emerge off the coast of Warsaw, and are lured into civilisation by the bass playing of a local nightclub band, kind of a washed up strip club version of Blondie. Silver begins to fall for a human, while Gold’s vampiric bloodlust can no longer be held in check. THE LURE is a bit of a conundrum. It’s gorgeously shot by photographer Kuba Kijowski, including a cavernous pool from another period entirely. Yet it contains clashing elements such as a big dance sequence in a department store, and then later the body horror of a human-mermaid organ transplant. The convoluted mash of motifs might just be a boob delivery system, with the back half of the film making no literal sense or following a traditional structure. Gold joins a punk rock band with the surface dwelling Tryton (Marcin Kowalczyk), and there’s a convoluted plot around various affairs happening within the band. Yet there’s an intangible quality that is sure to make this a cult hit, with a romantic element thrown in that brings it full-circle back to Hans Christian Andersen. One thing is for sure: there is nothing else on this planet quite like THE LURE.

2015 | Poland | DIR: Agnieszka Smoczynska | WRITERS: Robert Bolesto | CAST: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Jakub Gierszal | DISTRIBUTOR: Sydney Film Festival (AUS) | RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes | RATING: ★★★ (6/10)