Demon Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Magnet Man Films
Directed by Marcin Wrona
Written by Marcin Wrona and Pawel Maslona
2015, 94 Minutes, Not Rated
Itay Tiran as Piotr
Agnieszka Zulewska as Zaneta
Andrzej Grabowsk as Father of Zaneta
Tomasz Schuchardt as Jasny
Young love: daring, foolhardy, perhaps unwise, but always passionate. Zaneta and Piotr fall madly in love and decide to marry very quickly. Naturally, Zaneta’s father isn’t so keen at his daughter’s haste, but nonetheless marrying her beloved in her grandfather’s ancient farmhouse is Zaneta’s dream come true. A grand wedding is planned and Piotr comes in on the heels of his graduation in London to her small town in Poland, with barely any relatives of his own at their wedding, but all of the town – and its own dark history – is there to meet him. But secrets never stay buried, and when a skeleton is unearthed while clearing trees for the reception, spirits aren’t the only things brought back to life.
Demon is a beautiful final film from Marcel Wrona, who died shortly before its premiere in Poland. His vision for Demon was to represent his view that his homeland was reticent to open up to outsiders. Producer Olga Szymanska says this traditional tale from Jewish folklore is a reminder that writers in the Polish Romantic era were fascinated with Jewish mysticism, but that connection between Polish and Jewish culture is all but forgotten in this age. Wrona wanted to use a Polish wedding to retell the legend of the dybbuk to remind viewers of this shared history and caution against isolation. The quarantine of Piotr from the wedding as his behavior grows more bizarre mimics this theme beautifully, and the annoyance of the young groomsmen at the rambling tales of Zaneta’s Jewish grandfather during his toast is a glaring warning of ignoring the old in favor of the new.
The stylistic warm, faded colors of the finished film are meant to represent an old wedding photograph discovered in a forgotten album. It comes across as warm and friendly as the reception opens on a rainy afternoon. It is less successful as the strange day drags into night and unsettling visions begin to appear. There is rarely a sense of danger at the presence in the house, rather a frustration as no solution presents itself. The father of the bride repeats himself frequently, seeming to bring us back to the start when we want to be moving forward with the story. The film grows frustrating as it refuses to progress, but again that may have been Wrona's message.
Itay Tiran as Piotr gives an incredibly physical performance. He completely transforms from a nervous, excited groom to a lost spirit gradually and gracefully. His seizures and spasms are terrifying. Agnieszka Zulewska is so completely comfortable as Zaneta, furious at her brother and father as they worry over only her future when she is worried over her husband and their entwined fate.
Despite a clear artistic vision and a charmingly tragic finish; everything and nothing changes in Demon. The cyclical storytelling casts off suspense and grows dull. I was never alarmed or afraid watching the effects of the skeleton discovery affect the party, more just sad for the girl who owned it and those who realized they knew her and her family and that their lives and their own would pass without anyone remembering them either. Marketed as a horror rather than an art house film, it seems Demon needs a bit more darkness and edge to really frighten anyone into learning anything.