Marcin Wrona’s “Demon” – 2016 Fantasia Film Review


An aging Polish man speaks with sadness about changes his country has seen.  Poland was once the entire world to him, and the entire world was Polish.  But then the Germans came, followed by the Russians, and with them both…the Jews.

Similarly, an old Jewish professor speaks about the changes he’s seen.  The Polish butcher shop used to be a synagogue, and there was once a popular local bakery that specialized in challah bread, yet – post Holocaust – the Jews have all but vanished.

With roots in the cautionary Jewish myth of the Dybbuk (a ghost who clings to a human victim), the Dybbuk in “Demon” is the ghost of a young Jewish woman who vanished “mysteriously” just prior to her wedding day as World War II was tragically raging around her.  Sadly, it seems she may have returned to present-day Poland, attaching herself to a young man on his wedding day.  The man (Itay Tiran) first encounters her, or rather, her remains, while digging in the yard of the home his father-in-law has given to his daughter and the groom-to-be.  Later, at his wedding reception, he see’s the woman as an apparition and accidentally toasts to his future with her, rather than with his wife.  Finally, he becomes fully possessed: twitching, convulsing, and speaking Yiddish in the voice of the woman.  Meanwhile, others at the wedding party either pretend that nothing has happened, try to cover it up, or allow themselves to get so astoundingly drunk that they will have no memory of the incident the next day.

Perhaps the Dybbuk is the ghost of all of the missing Polish Jews, clinging to Poland.  Indeed, when the sun rises, one comes to realize that there will have been no remains.  There was never a missing Jewish girl.  There may not have even been a wedding or a groom.  And while much of this group denial is played for laughs, in the end, this haunting tale is no laughing matter.

“Demon” screened at the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival on Saturday, July 16.  It will screen again July 26 at 1:15 p.m.