By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Michalina Olszanska, Marta Mazurek and Kinga Preis
Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska
Written by Robert Bolesto
If you see only one horror/fantasy/romance/musical/mermaid movie this year… But seriously, the achievement of THE LURE is that it manages to meld all those disparate genres together into a movie in which they coexist naturally—where upbeat musical numbers alternate with graphic gore, and it doesn’t seem jarring.
A very precocious feature directorial debut by Agnieszka Smoczynska currently making the festival rounds (including Montreal’s Fantasia), THE LURE gets away with juxtaposing its assorted extremes by revealing its lack of inhibition early on. No sooner have mermaid sisters Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) been lured to the land by the beachside singing of bass player Mietek (Jakub Gierszal) than they’re backstage at the adult-oriented dance club where he performs, full-frontally nude. Here they reveal that their legs become giant fish tails when they get wet, and no one seems especially shocked by the transformation; instead, the establishment’s owner (Zygmunt Malanowicz) books them as a regular act. What the humans don’t know is that they’re the mermaids’ natural prey, and while the worldly and cynical Golden has no qualms about indulging that appetite, the more childlike Silver is willing to forego it in her romantic pursuit of Mietek.
That the rest of the characters take the girls’ fishy true identity for granted is a signal of the anything-can-happen approach adopted by Smoczynska and screenwriter Robert Bolesto. They and their team of craftspeople have created a vibrant fantasy world of colorful settings and odd characters who express themselves in song both onstage and off. The tunes notwithstanding, though, this is more a variation on Hans Christian Andersen’s original “The Little Mermaid” than on the Disney version, especially as the movie approaches its conclusion and its darker and more tragic elements come to the fore.
The strange relationship between Silver and Mietek forms the spine of a story that sometimes spins out of control around it. Smoczynska and Bolesto’s carefree narrative style can result in confusion; certain story developments are inexplicable even in this context, and subsidiary characters drop in without proper introduction or explanation. Holding it all together is the director’s commitment to this exuberant vision, and the striking performances by the two leads. Olszanska and Mazurek really do seem to have arrived from another world, and are perfectly at ease wearing Golden and Silver’s big scaly tails (the effects, here and elsewhere, are excellent), outrageous costumes or nothing at all. THE LURE is aptly titled: All it will take is a few minutes of its distinctive, exotic spirit to reel adventurous viewers in.