A musical about two mermaid sisters who are hired to work at a nightclub; when one of them falls in love with a bassist in the band, it threatens their very way of life.
As a cinephile, I am always on the lookout for something new and original. I grow tired of going to theaters and seeing the same old franchises, the same old faces up on the marquee, so it’s refreshing when something like this even exists. This is something so bold, so completely out there, that it shouldn’t work, but somehow, it does. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie so genre-defying as this. What kind of movie is this, you ask? Why, it’s a feminist fantasy/horror/comedy/romance/musical about mermaids, and I promise you, it’s nothing like you’re imagining.
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
Two mermaid sisters, Srebrna (Marta Mazurek, “The Innocents”) and Zlota (Michalina Olszanska, “I, Olga”), come ashore and find work at a nightclub, where they become an overnight sensation. As they become wrapped up in the stylized and flashy world of men, the once inseparable sisters begin to pull apart. One of them begins to feed on the humans, as is their nature. But the other begins to fall in love with Mietek (Jakub Gierszal, “Dracula Untold”), a boy from the nightclub’s band.
It’s almost impossible to truly describe this film. It is a bizarre and wonderful experience. I stumbled upon this little gem thanks to the Criterion Collection, and found that, upon reading the synopsis on the back, it was too strange not to see. The premise is like something I’ve never seen before, and it’s executed in a way that is so vibrantly colorful and energetic that it sweeps you right up into the story. This movie shouldn’t work; it’s all over the place in terms of story and in terms of characters, but somehow, it does. I even found myself getting emotional towards the end of this film.
The director, Agnieszka Smoczynska, is quite a visionary. I can’t say I’ve seen any other films from her oeuvre, but if any of them are half as bold as this, then I want to see them. Her work here is utterly uncompromising, and even in the scenes that didn’t work as well as others (there are a few) she still making a statement. Perhaps my favorite part of this movie is the eclectic musical numbers. There are jazzy dance numbers; lyrical, haunting siren songs; and then also a pop song shopping montage.
There are a few subpar acting moments from all of our leads, but honestly that didn’t really bother me too much. Usually, that's the sort of thing that would take me right out of the movie, but somehow, for this film, it just gave it more charm. I felt that Michalina Olszanska was better than Marta Mazurek, but both of them were enchanting.
As this is a Christian review site, I do have to point out that the club that the two mermaids work at is, essentially, a higher-class gentlemen’s club. There is a decent amount of nudity in this movie, though, for the most part, it isn’t horribly sexualized. The mermaids are fae creatures; they’re supposed to be seductive, but innocently so. Their lack of clothing is just part of their nature, so it doesn’t feel wrong that they shouldn’t wear clothes during many scenes. However, there are also scenes featuring sexual dialogue, and weird fish/human relations (not so far or graphic as “Shape of Water”).
If you’re sick of all the sequels and superheroes, and you want something that is completely and wholly original, then this movie is something you might want to check out. It’s strange, it’s funny, it’s sometimes even a little frightening, but overall it’s an incredibly touching film.
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