The Lure (2015 film)
US film poster by Sam Spratt
|Directed by||Agnieszka Smoczyńska|
|Produced by||Włodzimierz Niderhaus|
|Written by||Robert Bolesto|
|Music by||Barbara Wrońska|
|Edited by||Jarosław Kamiński|
|Distributed by||Kino Świat|
The Lure (Polish: Córki dancingu – "The Daughters of Dance Party") is a 2015 Polish horror musical film directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska. It tells of two mermaids who emerge from the waters and perform in a nightclub. One falls in love with a man, and gives up her tail, but loses her voice in the process. The story is a reworking of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, with inspiration from Smoczyńska's experiences.
Some time in the 1980s, two mermaids, Golden and Silver, encounter a rock band, Figs n' Dates, relaxing and playing music on a beach in Poland. They accompany the band back to the nightclub where they regularly perform and begin playing gigs there, performing as strippers and backup singers. The mermaids soon become their own act, The Lure, with the band backing them. Golden murders a bar patron after a show one night and continues to thirst for blood; Silver falls in love with the bassist Mietek, but Mietek only sees her as a fish and not a woman.
Golden meets Triton, a fellow sea creature and singer of a metal band, who informs her that if her sister falls in love and her love marries someone else, she will turn into sea foam; if she is to have her tail removed, she will lose her voice. When Golden's murder victim is discovered, one of the bandmates punches Silver and Golden, and it appears that they die. The bandmates roll their bodies in carpets and throw them into the river. But they return to the club, alive, and the band apologizes. Silver has her tail surgically replaced with a pair of legs to make Mietek love her back, but this makes her lose her singing voice. She tries to have sex with her new lower-half, but Mietek is disgusted when she gets blood on him from her surgery scars.
Mietek later meets a woman in a recording studio, whom he marries. The sisters attend the reception; Golden and Triton warn Silver that she must eat Mietek before daybreak or she will become sea foam. Silver dances with Mietek, but cannot bring herself to eat him, and turns into sea foam in his arms. Distraught, Golden tears Mietek's throat out and returns to the ocean in full view of the entire wedding party.
- Marta Mazurek as Silver
- Michalina Olszańska as Golden
- Kinga Preis as the nightclub singer
- Jakub Gierszał as the bass player
- Andrzej Konopka as the drummer
- Zygmunt Malanowicz as the house manager
- Magdalena Cielecka as Divine Furs (strip dancer)
- Katarzyna Herman as the Militia Lieutenant
- Marcin Kowalczyk as Triton
- Kaya Kołodziejczyk as Crystal
Director Agnieszka Smoczyńska called the film a "coming-of-age story", echoing her own youth. She recalled that her mother ran a nightclub, where she had her "first shot of vodka, first cigarette, first sexual disappointment and first important feeling for a boy." The mermaids were an abstraction that allowed her to tell her story without revealing too much of herself. The screenwriter Robert Bolesto sought to write a story based on two friends of his that frequented nightclubs in the 80s, which enthused Smoczyńska and resonated with her own childhood.
Smoczyńska also wanted the film to be a retelling of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, and developed her idea of mermaids from tales of the 14th–16th century that described them as the sisters of dragons, and hence made them part monstrous. She invented their need to feed on human hearts and that propensity to attack the larynx of their victims.
Smoczyńska likened the mermaids to immigrants, abused by the locals (used in the sex industry) on their way to their real goal—America. She added they represent innocence, yet their odour and slime recalled girls maturing, "they menstruate, they ovulate, their bodies start smelling and feeling different." David Ehrlich of IndieWire, noting the mermaids' "bodies are a source of constant fascination", said that "The Lure is having some fun with chauvinist objectification; the film has a funny habit of lambasting dumb misogynist rhetoric by applying it literally."
Córki dancingu premiered in Poland on 25 December 2015. The Lure was later shown in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and then the Fantasia Film Festival.
In 2016, American art house distributor Janus Films acquired the rights to distribute The Lure in North America, for a limited release beginning on 1 February 2017. It was afterwards chosen for a Blu-ray release in Region A by The Criterion Collection.
The film had a mixed reception in Poland. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 56 reviews, and an average rating of 7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Lure adds a sexually charged, genre-defying twist to well-established mermaid lore, more than overpowering its flaws through sheer variety and wild ambition." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Giuseppe Sedia of the Krakow Post wrote that Smoczynska's debut feature is a "cinematic act of love towards Poland’s capital city in the 1980s with its sparkling neon signs, lighthearted nightlife, and ability to knock back gallons of vodka in its best days".  Rubina Ramji, film editor and reviewer for the Journal of Religion and Film, described the film as a "rock opera, a horror movie and fairytale story about mermaids all rolled up into one". Guy Lodge of Variety praised it for its originality, describing it as "never less than arresting, and sometimes even a riot". However, he felt the screenplay lacked ideas in portraying the mermaids' vampiric attributes, and was unsure of the film's 1980s setting and whether it alluded to the politics of the time. IndieWire critic David Ehrlich gave it a B+, calling it "the best goth musical about man-eating mermaids ever made".
On its North American opening weekend in February 2017, The Lure grossed $7,370 in one theatre. It finished its run on 4 May 2017 with a gross of $101,657 total in North America.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Calgary Underground Film Festival||2016||Best Narrative Feature||Agnieszka Smoczyńska||Won|||
|Gdynia Film Festival||2015||Best Debut Picture||Won|||
|Nashville Film Festival||22 April 2016||Special Jury Prize for Music||Won|||
|Graveyard Shift Grand Jury Prize||Won|
|Graveyard Shift Special Jury Prize – Actress||Marta Mazurek||Won|
|Steven Goldmann Visionary Award||Agnieszka Smoczyńska||Won|
|Sundance Film Festival||21-31 January 2016||Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design||Won|||
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