News agencies in Poland are reporting that the body of Marcin Wrona has been found in a hotel room in Gdynia, where the director, screenwriter, and producer was attending the ongoing film festival. Wrona was only 42. The cause of death is as yet unknown.
Festival organizers have announced that the awards ceremony scheduled for today will be shortened “with full respect to the memory of Marcin.” Wrona’s latest film, Demon, which just saw its world premiere in the Vanguard program in Toronto, has also screened in the Main Competition of Gdynia’s 40th edition.
Wrona had a long-standing relationship with both festivals. His previous two features, My Flesh My Blood (2009) and The Christening (2010) both screened in Toronto and The Christening won the Silver Lion for best film as well as best actor and best editing awards in Gdynia. Wrona, who was born in the southeastern Polish town of Tarnów in 1973, also won several awards over the years for his work in television.
In 2010, Neil Young wrote of The Christening that “in terms of sheer, old-fashioned filmmaking craft, Wrona and his collaborators… deserve great credit and widespread exposure for their taut little tale of life on the fringes of Warsaw’s gangland…. Highly touted in Poland since his award-winning short Magnet Man (2000), Wrona “is now getting the international attention he deserves.”
At RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico calls Demon “a unique take on the Jewish legend of the Dybbuk that feels both deeply rooted in cultural nightmares and refreshingly new. It’s a possession tale with a spin, a take on the idea that marriage changes us, making us someone new, someone unfamiliar, and the fear that comes with that act of giving up one’s older self.”
Diana Dabrowska, writing for Cinema Scope: “While Demon is attractive enough visually to evoke the films of Lars von Trier (especially Melancholia), the setting of the wedding ceremony has a long tradition in Polish literaturę and film, dating back to the work of Stanislaw Wyspianski. The crowded mingling of vodka, folklore, and chiromancy still permits space for reflection on the social and moral condition of a country whose inhabitants seek self-determination yet dance blindly and sleepily, like puppets; as the father of the bride confesses ‘our beautiful country is lying on corpses.’ Through his poltergeist fable, Wrona gets at a nation’s sense of displacement and dementia.”
Update, 9/24: At Little White Lies, Daniel Bird, who co-produced Arrow’s Blu-ray of Hard to Be a God and translated the subtitles for Andrzej Zulawski’s Cosmos, remembers his friend, who “had one foot in the world of film, and the other in theatre. I was waiting for some of the energy of TR to reinvigorate Polish cinema, and my money was on Marcin.”