×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Demon’

A wedding-crashing ghost causes trouble in Marcin Wrona’s initially intriguing but ultimately frustrating drama.

With:
Itay Tiran, Tomasz Schuchardt, Andrzej Grabowski, Adam Woronowicz, Wlodzimierz Press, Tomasz Zietek, Katarzyna Gniewkowska, Agnieszka Zulewska. (Polish, English, Yiddish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4935158/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1

Up until its unfortunate third-act detour from intriguing verisimilitude to frustrating abstraction, director Marcin Wrona’s “Demon” enthralls as an atmospheric ghost story with a cheeky undercurrent of absurdist humor. This modern-day take on the dybbuk legend of Jewish folklore, which Wrona and co-scripter Pawel Maslona adapted from the 2008 play “Adherence” by Piotr Rowicki, doubtless will haunt a few screens on the global fest circuit. But commercial prospects appear limited, since the film isn’t likely to satisfy either genre fans or arthouse habitues.

Itay Tiran gives an impressively vivid yet understated performance as Piotr, an affable young man who journeys from England to marry his beloved Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) at her family’s country home in rural Poland. While wandering around the property, which he and Zaneta will receive as a wedding present from her father, Zgmunt (Andrzej Grabowski), Piotr uncovers what appear to be human remains. For reasons not immediately clear — maybe he doesn’t want to be a party pooper? — he tosses dirt back on to the bones, and tells no one about his discovery. This is a big mistake.

During the wedding party at the family homestead, Piotr begins to behave strangely, then scarily. At first, his new wife and her brother Jasny (Tomasz Schuchardt) write off his odd actions as alcohol-induced. As Piotr’s convulsions increase, Zgmunt suspects his son-in-law is epileptic, and has him carried away to another part of the house.

Only gradually does it become clear that the unfortunate groom has been possessed by the restless spirit of a young woman who vanished from the community decades earlier. Zaneta is understandably upset. So is Zgmunt, but for a markedly different reason: He’s worried about what his friends and neighbors will think of his son-in-law’s strange behavior, and how that might reflect on him. So he does his best to get the wedding guests as obliviously drunk as possible, in the hope they won’t notice that the dybbuk has stopped here.

“Demon” occasionally strikes faint echoes of “Contract,” Krzysztof Zanussi’s 1980 dramedy about a wedding party that brings out the worst in everyone. Indeed, the film is most entertaining when it plays its premise for laughs — noting just how embarrassing it can be to have a ghost as an unwelcome wedding guest — even though the supernatural elements are handled seriously and, for the most part, effectively.

When it comes time for a resolution, however, Wrona behaves very much like a cartoon character who, after painting himself into a corner, simply paints a door onto a nearby wall and takes his leave through it. Ambiguity is a worthy artistic goal, of course. But when “Demon” ends, the audience is left to sort through a thicket of dangling plot threads.

Toronto Film Review: 'Demon'

Reviewed online, Toronto, Sept. 11, 2015. (In Toronto Film Festival — Vanguard.) Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: (Poland-Israel) A Magnet Man Films production in association with Telewizja Polska, the Chimney Pot, Transfax Film Prods., Lava Films, Krakow Festival Office, Silesia Film and Wajda Studio. Produced by Marcin Wrona. Executive producer, Olga Szymanska.

Crew: Directed by Marcin Wrona. Screenplay, Wrona, Pawel Maslona, based on the play “Adherence” by Piotr Rowicki. Camera (color), Pawel Flis; editor, Piotr Kmiecik; music, Krzysztof Penderecki, Marcin Macuk; production designer, Anna Wunderlich; sound, Tomasz Sikora.

With: Itay Tiran, Tomasz Schuchardt, Andrzej Grabowski, Adam Woronowicz, Wlodzimierz Press, Tomasz Zietek, Katarzyna Gniewkowska, Agnieszka Zulewska. (Polish, English, Yiddish dialogue)

More Film

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    'I Lost My Body' Director Jeremy Clapin On His Critics’ Week Breakout

    CANNES  — Jeremy Clapin’s feature debut “I Lost My Body” follows Naoufel, a young man who moves to France, falls in love and tries to create a new life.  Then in a parallel storyline, it follows Naoufel’s severed hand, which runs, jumps and rolls across Paris in an attempt to find the rest of its [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Expands Suit Against Agencies With New Fraud Allegations

    The Writers Guild of America has bulked up its lawsuit with additional fraud allegations against Hollywood’s four biggest talent agencies. The WGA amended its suit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court with the claim that CAA, WME, UTA and ICM partners have engaged “constructive fraud” by allegedly placing their own interests ahead of their clients [...]

  • 'Heroes Don't Die' Review: A Peculiar,

    Cannes Film Review: 'Heroes Don't Die'

    Just when you think modern cinema has exploited the found-footage conceit from every conceivable angle, along comes a tragicomic mockumentary tracing Bosnia’s recent war-ravaged history via the travails of a young French film crew getting to the root of a reincarnated identity crisis. Aude Léa Rapin’s first narrative feature “Heroes Don’t Die” is nothing if [...]

  • Mediapro, Complutense, NFTS Team On Screenwriting

    The Mediapro Group Launches Master’s Program at Madrid’s Complutense University

    Madrid-based production hub The Mediapro Studio has announced finalized details of an arrangement with Madrid’s Complutense University (UCM) and the National Film and Television School of London (NFTS) on a new Master’s program designed to develop new screenwriting talent. Mediapro general director Juan Ruiz de Gauna, UCM dean of information sciences Jorge Clemente and Irene [...]

  • Argentina, A New Member of Co-Production

    Argentina Joins European Co-Production Fund Eurimages

    CANNES – Argentina will join the European Council’s co-production fund Eurimages as an associate member starting  on October 1 2019, it was officially announced Monday at the Cannes Film Market. The agreement was unveiled by Ralph Haiek, president of Argentine agency Incaa, Eurimages executive director Roberto Olla and the president of global producers assn. Fiapf, [...]

  • "Black Coal Thin Ice" in Berlin

    Chinese Director Diao Yinan Drills Down on 'The Wild Goose Lake'

    Diao Yinan is the only Chinese director with a film in the main competition this year at Cannes. He’s already a known entity on the arthouse circuit having won the Golden Bear in Berlin in 2014 for his hardscrabble coal-blackened detective thriller “Black Coal, Thin Ice.” Now he makes the leap to the Croisette with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content