Director: Marcin Wrona
Starring: Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Zulewska, Andrzej Grabowski, Tomasz Schuchardt, Adam Woronowicz, and Cezary Kosinski
Everything that happened after the vows on my wedding day is a bit of blur. The whirlwind reception that consisted of meet-and-greets with family and friends went by in a flash. So whenever a newly engaged couple asks me for advice about their wedding day, I tell them to remember to eat their dinner.
A wedding is the setting for director Marcin Wrona’s film “Demon”, a satire and also a horror film that evokes Polish history and culture to compose a remarkable genre-bending feature.
Piotr (Itay Tiran) is traveling from London to a small Polish town; he is coming to meet his bride Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska). Piotr and Zaneta are in a relatively new relationship, moving quickly towards marriage has placed Zaneta’s father Zygmunt (Andrzej Grabowski) is a position of caution. The young couple plans on living in the dilapidated house of Zaneta’s grandfather, where they are also holding the wedding in a nearby barn. Piotr discoveries human remains buried on the property and at the wedding reception he begins to act strangely and then falls ill with violent convulsions. Very quickly the family, in the middle of drunken debacle, assume the worse and come to the conclusion that Piotr is possessed by an evil entity known as a Dybbuk.
While the premise may seem very reminiscent of a horror film, exorcism and ghost story films especially, this genre plays merely a supporting character in a film that is more interested in utilizing compositions of culture and tradition and mixing it with history. When one of the few scary moments happens, it’s utilized more as a setup for something comedic or for nothing more than a distraction for the audience. Surprisingly, there are moments that are genuinely creepy all in the quietest way.
The photography is beautifully bleak; the Polish countryside is ominous with a sense of darkness clouded by fog in the distance. This aspect is completely purposeful; “Demon” utilizes both dark humor and not-so-subtle metaphors to evoke a narrative that displays a portrait of Polish history and a correlation to the Holocaust. It’s not hard to see the point the film is trying to make when you have a nonchalant comment about German’s destroying a bridge that hasn’t been rebuilt and the comments from the patriarch to a group of deliriously drunk guests that “we must forget what we didn’t see here”. It’s about the still looming shadow of World War II and the effect that it holds over Europe.
Itay Tiran gives a great performance as Piotr; the slow transformation from wedding groom into a possessed person is layered with exceptional touches. Also good, and very funny, is Andrzej Grabowski who plays the father of the bride. The performance is both manic and restrained, a character that goes to great effort to keep control of the uninhibited party while also keeping his reputation intact.
“Demon” is a different although refreshing genre film. While is doesn’t indulge in its horror conventions like most films would, the film instead deals with the effects of horrific events on people and how it changes and influences culture over time. Marcin Wrona’s talent as a director is undeniable; unfortunately Mr. Wrona’s life was cut short, his death was ultimately ruled a suicide, just as this film was about to premiere. “Demon” is the kind of film that displays how a creative artist can transform genre into something that evokes different emotions while also having something powerful to proclaim.
4.25 out of 5.00