Marcin Wrona’s ghost story “Demon”

 

When a happy couple arrives to celebrate their love in a remote Polish village, strange things start to happen to the groom. The ghosts from the past awaken and will not allow a happily ever after. In the last film before his death, Marcin Wrona proved that he was one of the most distinctive young Polish film directors.

Our English protagonist Piotr (Itay Tiran) comes to Poland to marry his blond sweetheart Żaneta (Agnieszka Żulewska). The couple arrives in a little, rural town and moves into an old house that belonged to her grandfather. They start joyous renovations, breathing new life into the somewhat neglected property. They are living the dream, no doubt about it.
While working on the lot, Piotr discovers a human skeleton buried in the ground. At first, he decides to keep the secret for himself, but he digs further, curious about his discovery.

The preparations for the wedding begin, and soon guests gather in a big stable next to the house. It is a real polish wedding with a lot of people, a lot of dancing and a lot of vodkas. While everyone engages in a wild party, Piotr starts experiencing hallucinations of a woman in a wedding gown. At first, the guests conclude that he drank too much, which does not keep his fresh father-in-law (excellent Andrzej Grabowski) from filling his glass over and over again. Soon, however, the situation becomes more serious. Piotr starts having convulsions, making terrible noises and eventually performs a dreadful, mad dance. It becomes intelligible that he was possessed by a demon.

The more festive it gets, the more symptoms arise. The hosts encourage the wedding guests to drink more, trying to win themselves time to mend the awkward situation. Or perhaps make them forget it easier. It seems, however, there are no illusions that the fun is long gone. The attention is now wholly focused on Piotr.

The priest suggests the involvement of spiritual forces, while the doctor assumes a drug overdose. Żaneta’s father becomes increasingly suspicious about Piotr and tries to annul the marriage. The bride, in a state of despair, is watching her world fall apart.

There is also an old professor who lived in the village as a boy. When Piotr begins to speak Yiddish, he is the only one that can communicate with him. The voice coming from Piotr’s mouth introduces itself as Hana- a Jewish girl whom the professor knew in his childhood. She declares to have chosen Piotr as her husband. We learn that the village was inhabited by Jews before the war and was later completely destroyed by the Germans. The professor also mentions dybbuk- a Jewish ghost who inhabits a body of a living person. The dislocated soul can only leave after it purged itself.

The film balances between a comedy and a horror, mixing humorous moments with its overly grim atmosphere. The wedding guests ridicule the idea of a demon, which brings us down to Earth. We may ask ourselves- would we believe in dybbuk? But their mocking attitude hides a desire to suppress the facts and keep the cumbersome secrets quiet. The wedding continues throughout the whole film, its craziness growing steadily. Foreign audiences may be rubbing their eyes in astonishment, seeing the amounts of vodka. But as much as Polish weddings are frantic, this one turns into madness.

The film refers to the Polish- Jewish history and the extermination of Jews that inhabited the country before the war. Forgotten victims become a symbol of abandoned memories and unrevealed facts. Did the house really belong to Żaneta’s family? How did Hana die? These questions remain open, and just as the audience is waiting for the resolution, Wrona cuts it off allowing them to look for a story themselves.

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