"The Demon" by Marcin Wrona (Poland)
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival - Midnight Movies
Name: Karolina Blazejczak
A meeting of the material and spiritual world is one of the eternal topics for the Polish nation. Confronting The Demon is not scary but rather a demanding experience. But does the visiting spirit carry something more than just a overwhelming number of references?
Though the film title is The Demon it could have simply been called The Wedding, for which we are invited to. Groom (Itay Tiran) and bride (Agnieszka Żulewska) are going to move into a really old empty house just after the party finishes. But before sunrise they will have to deal with a demon of the past. The Polish-Jewish trauma seemed to be already buried, but it is only left under the cover of dust.
The Demon is based on a theatre play, Clinging by Piotr Rowicki, but clearly refers to all the weddings inherent in Polish culture. The most important Wedding was a defining work of Polish drama written at the turn of the 20th century by Stanisław Wyspiański. Still today played in many theatres all over Poland, the plot was adapted for cinema by Andrzej Wajda (1972) and inspired another reclaimed director, Wojciech Smarzowski, to make his own film version in 2004.
The play takes place during a wedding where the groom meets several ghosts carrying important messages for the Polish nation, which was occupied at this stage. But the nation gets drunk, unable to unite and fight back so freedom remains only a bitter dream of hungovered guests.
In The Demon the only spirit that appears is a Jewish dybbuk, the one which enters the body because it cannot experience eternal rest without help from the living. Though its mission in the film is not clearly explained, it is evident it came to remind Poles that their party happens in a former Jewish house and village – a world that is gone but should not be forgotten.
Meeting spirits of history in order to learn is a romantic legend that feels somewhat ridiculous in modern times. So the characters care only for the show to go on and, as we can predict, it is easier to hide the demon in the basement than to confront the complex trauma of Polish-Jewish relationships. And, as in The Wedding by Wyspiański, getting drunk and ignoring the past dooms the mission of the visiting spirit to fail.
Surprisingly watching all this is not that confusing as it seems at first sight. We get on the carousel of absurdity and it spins only faster, regularly commented by the one-man chorus of the father of the bride (amazing performance of Andrzej Grabowski). Creepiness is emphasized by the music, always emotionally inadequate to the action. Exaggeration applies here to everything, visible in highly contrasted images, sudden cuts, not natural acting. The film itself is described as a horror movie, probably to attract viewers hungry for entertainment, but in the end it is highly symbolic drama that has to be seen as a metaphor.
Moreover The Demon is a film in which Wrona continues on with a reflection on his main areas of interest. These are men friendship, wall of secrets between love and honesty, fear and brutal aspects of human nature. In The Demon he resurrects all these in a ready made scenography of Polish romantic dramas. Unfortunately it is also the last chapter of his work, since the director committed suicide right after the premiere of the film.
The last film of Marcin Wrona enlivens the old dead of Polish culture in a pop quasi-horror style. The film itself is a universal story on the importance of remembrance, without which we both loose the connection with the past and are not able to understand present. Nevertheless it is hard to say if the aim and message of the film is clear due to the maybe exaggerated stylistics. However, even though the point sounds so stupidly like “dig deeper” The Demon is still worth seeing.