[I’m getting so much better at posting these on time, aren’t I?]
I am reviewing – for want of a more amateur word – Marcin Wrona‘s Polish film Demon outside of the context of his tragic suicide, which was before he could know how truly well this was received. Watching this movie is a bittersweet experience nonetheless, and a fascinating mesh of historical and cultural horror notes that we really need more of in the genre.
What’s going on? Nothing’s going on. It’s a perfectly normal wedding.
Says the bride’s mother right in the middle of the shit hitting the fan. It’s an unusual wedding by this anachronistic village’s standards, with the groom, a British national of Israeli origin, having only met the bride via Skype calls initiated by his friend and soon-to-be brother-in-law.
But the weirdness had already started the night before, when said groom, Piotr (Itay Tiran), accidentally digs up a mysterious – and then disappearing – skeleton on the grounds of the crumbling estate he’s to inherit from his new father-in-law (a compellingly oafish patriarchal presence by Andrzej Grabowski). Happy montages give this uneducated viewer an interesting depiction of rural Polish wedding traditions, which become distorted with pitch-perfect blackly comic timing once the demonic elements start trickling in.
I can’t imagine a better setting for a nascent ghostly possession than a wedding – it’s already chock-full of religious imagery, merry drunkards (including Adam Woronowicz as a scene-stealing doctor), sacrament and sin, along with clashes of opinion, history and culture uniquely found when so many different types of people congregate.
Arguably, there might be too many bodies, too many concepts, too many threads in this film, particularly under the sombre weight of its subject matter – but it fits in with the chaotic theme of the nuptials’ backdrop, and holds a mirror up to provincial contentment dancing over the bones of past cultural atrocities. It’s a beautifully unsettling film, unlikely to warrant repeat viewings, but its bleak, bold mesh of moods leave an impression long after the credits have rolled.