Like Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, Satan Said Dance is shot in 1:1 aspect ratio, amplifying the sense that the main character finds her life entrapping. Though Katarzyna Roslaniec’s film has flashy style and structure – it’s made up of two-minute fragments from Karolina’s life, shown out of sequence – this is only a diverting gimmick.
Satan Said Dance gradually becomes a stream of interminable nonsense as Karolina parties, drinks, does drugs, throws up, and negotiates complex affairs. It feels like a long road to an inevitable conclusion, though the structure ensures there’s no clear-cut ending. As the film progresses the segments merge together; they might as well repeat verbatim for all the originality and development they offer. Thank goodness for Magdalena Berus’ total absorption in the role – it’s like looking into the downward spiral of a real life celebrity – and the fun fashion which somewhat distracts from the misery of watching someone slowly but surely kill herself.
Like Karolina’s parade of slogan tees, Satan Said Dance is defined by empty provocation in the form of graphic sex, competitive hedonism and untreated addiction. Yet unlike other addiction-focused films (Steve McQueen’s Shame, for example), it’s difficult to relate to a character who can’t see past her own reflection. The cinematography also maintains distance by habitually framing Karolina in medium shots. With close ups used sparingly, however, they are especially impactful.
Satan Said Dance reproduces and celebrates the happy fallacy of social media, dwelling on Karolina’s outwardly vibrant life and giving short shrift to the vulnerability at her core. By having her snort coke off a selfie-adorned iPhone screen, Roslaniec offers the perfect microcosm for destructive narcissism.
If it were less concerned with attention-grabbing but meaningless style, Satan Said Dance could have shone a light on social problems. Instead it glorifies a dangerous and unsustainable lifestyle.
CAST: Magdalena Berus, Tygo Gernandt, Danuta Stenka, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Moe Abbas
DIRECTOR: Katarzyna Roslaniec
WRITER: Katarzyna Roslaniec
SYNOPSIS: Karolina is a pop journalist perpetually searching out the surface of the scene. Her quest is presented through a series of succinct, colour-coded vignettes that range from the comic to the calamitous.