The Lure (2017) by Agnieszka Smoczynska
Review by Lydia Creech
So, I’d never heard of this film before the IU Cinema announced they’d have a couple of screenings of it this week, and it totally blew me away. David Ehrlich from IndieWire called it “The Best Goth Musical About Man-Eating Mermaids Ever Made” in his review, and maybe that tagline is enough to sell you (it sold me). If not, uhm, what’s wrong with you?
The Lure is a Polish film based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid.” Thanks to Disney, I think we all know the basic idea of the story: a mermaid falls in love with a human man, and gives up her tail and voice in order to get a chance to be with him… However, in the original fairy tale, he doesn’t love her back and, because mermaids don’t have souls, she’s doomed to disappear into sea foam the night he marries another. The Lure takes that tragic bent and mixes in bits of the original mermaid myths, which are closer to how sirens are described in The Odyssey. Mermaids were said to use their beautiful voices to seduce sailors into the sea, where they would then drown.
This sounds incredibly dark, but The Lure mitigates most of that by being unrelentingly weird and fun. The musical part of the tagline is expressed in this 80’s synthpop style, and unlike SOME recent musicals (cough cough La La Land), doesn’t forget halfway through to have musical numbers. I don’t know enough about pop music to write intelligently on whether the songs are any good or how they made me feel, other than they were dance-y and I was down. It’s also filled with surprising mythological details at every turn (mermaids talk to each other telepathically with... dolphin clicks? (!)) and gorgeous cinematography.
Or course, that’s not to say it’s all light and games. The bits where people get eaten are quite gory and also there’s a kind of stomach turning tail-to-legs transplant surgery scene.
Additionally, The Lure is pretty graphic about nudity (no cute shell bras ala Disney and the mermaids also find work in a stripclub). Not to mention, the scary nature of budding female sexuality (according to the director). It’s kind of funny, but here’s another female directed coming-of-age tale via eating people.
Though we’re super woke in 2017 and look at the story of a girl changing everything special about herself for love as maybe not that great of a moral, The Lure does try to have it both ways by playing up the tragic aspects. Unfortunately, it slightly knee-caps itself by leaving out the redemptive self-sacrifice aspect of Andersen’s ending, but as a modern examination of what women are willing to give up and where it ultimately gets them (nowhere, and then the guy gets eaten anyway), maybe it’s better that way.
At any rate, The Lure is playing at the IU Cinema again on Saturday, April 29, and honestly I’ll probably go see it again. I recommend checking it out, but maybe go light on the popcorn beforehand?