In Warsaw, a pair of mermaid sisters are adopted into a cabaret. While one seeks love with humans the other hungers to dine on the human population of the city.

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Writer: Robert Bolesto
Stars: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis

Subtitled in English


On January 9, 1493, Christopher Columbus saw mermaids on a voyage sailing near the Dominican Republic. He jotted down that they were “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” In reality, the Italian explorer spotted a couple of tubby manatees.

Mermaids have been a point of fascination since Ancient Greek mythology told of the goddess Atargatis transforming into a mermaid. And we’ve come a long way from mistaking sea cows for babes in clamshell bikinis. In film, mermaids have run the gamut, being depicted as conniving (Aquamarine), seductive (Splash!) or face-meltingly terrifying (see: Cara Delevingne in Pan). However, mermaids have never found their way out of the sea and onto the beer-soaked stage of a Polish night club… Until now.

The Lure, a Polish mermaid new wave rock musical slash thriller, is the directorial debut of Agnieszka Smoczynska. It’s as fucked up as it sounds. Two mermaids – Golden and Silver – leave the ocean and are recruited as members of a band in 80s Warsaw. They take to the stage and blow away the club’s patrons, performing songs. Silver develops feelings for the band’s guitarist, Mietek. Golden, on the other hand, develops something far more sinister: a taste for human flesh.

Did this idea emerge from the butt end of a bad acid trip? Sounds probable, but nope. Smoczynska drew upon personal experience. Growing up in Poland, her mother owned two bars that she would frequent as a child. She noticed the patrons plied themselves with vodka in an attempt to forget that Poland was under Russian rule. It was also about writing partner Robert Bolesto’s two friends, “who were brought up in dance bars during the communist era in Poland.” The mermaids were simply a symbol, Smoczynska described in an interview, for “a girl who is growing and developing, a chrysalis waiting to become a woman.” This coming-of-age fairytale trades in thrumming new wave rock numbers, sexuality and literal man-eating.

Fantasy ladled over lunacy, The Lure is possibly the weirdest thing you’ll see this year.

– Trey Taylor, Dazed