We tend to think of mermaids as being good creatures – they swim around the ocean; sing wonderful songs; and occasionally fall in love with a prince, one for whom they're willing to trade their voice. Director Agnieszka Smoczyńska's The Lure postulates an entirely different sort of mermaid. They can still sing and they can still swim, but they also have a craving for human flesh.
Arriving on these shores from Poland, The Lure stars Marta Mazurek as Silver and Michalina Olszańska as Golden, two mermaids who find themselves working as singers in a nightclub in 1980s Warsaw. Their voices, along with their magical ability to go from legs to fin, turn them into a sensation in the club and Silver quickly falls in love with one of the musicians in the band, Mietek (Jakub Gierszał). Golden is more happy to continue in her natural, human-eating ways and conflict erupts between the sisters.
The truth about The Lure is this – much of the plot is something relatively standard. We have all seen stories of star-crossed love before. What makes The Lure different, what makes it special, is that it's this tale of star-crossed love but with singing, man-eating mermaids. That twist is great and works as long as the movie is focused on it; whenever things turn to just love, it is less interesting.
One of the stronger elements in the depiction of Golden and Silver's relationship is the lack of dialogue that occurs between the two characters. They do know what the other is thinking, communicating if not telepathically then with fish sounds to which no one else is privy. On screen, some of this comes across as a knowing glance or an elongated stare. Golden and Silver speak volumes to one another about their desires and fears without using any words at all, and those volumes come across to the audience loud and clear.
Much of the discussions (or looks) revolve around the mermaids' understandable (to them) predicament of whether humans should be loved or eaten. The Lure is quite unapologetically focused on the bizarre. Smoczyńska delights in it. The first time Silver and Golden are in the club, the manager is given an explanation of the mermaids' bodies, both in human form (where they lack genitalia) and mermaid form (where they don't). The Lure revels in the band member's explanation to the manager, not in an attempt to seduce the audience into some sort of arousal, but rather seduce us, via its oddness, into continuing on with the movie.
During other scenes in The Lure, Silver and Golden sing directly to camera, offering something of a come-hither stare and more traditional seduction. At the same time, there is always something slightly off-putting about them; their desire to consume human flesh is never far away. Not content to only have music occur within the club, some of the songs take place as the mermaids are out and about.
The Lure is indeed a musical, with songs coming from Silver and Golden as well as the nightclub band led by Krysia (Kinga Preis). The music—as with the ambience and costumes—definitely has an '80s vibe to it and is catchy and enjoyable.
The movie is able to establish its own interesting take on mermaid mythology, or at least portions of mermaid mythology, and it does so without ever getting bogged down in long discussions about it. Neither Silver nor Golden is exactly sure what will happen if one of them falls in love and it doesn't work out, but the rumors are certainly bad. The two mermaids being unaware of some of the facts of their own existence is an interesting take which plays out well.
Even that, just as with everything else, ties into the movie's love of the bizarre. There is odd imagery, weird songs, crazy surgeries, strange rules, and more. The Lure is a movie that wants a second viewing so one can make sure that they got it all. The pieces that do emerge the first time through are easy to tie together, but one gets the sense that there was more going on that wasn't readily apparent.
The Lure is not a movie that seems destined to attract a massive worldwide audience. It is an offbeat, peculiar movie. The love story it puts forth isn't all that new or special on the surface, but placed on top of it (or perhaps under it) are immense amounts of weirdness from mermaids and non-mermaids alike. Like Silver and Golden, it has the power to both attract and repel in equal measure, but manages to use both to seduce an audience.