WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE (Papa, sdokhni) is Writer and Director Kirill Sokolov’s DEBUT feature. DEBUT. Allow me to explain why that bit of trivia is so jaw-dropping.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE (Papa, sdokhni) is damn near PERFECT. From the timing to the camerawork, the editing, the character development, the sound mix, the ACTION. All perfectly synchronized into a twisting, bloody story with a new reveal every couple of minutes. We open in an apartment building hallway as a twenty-something man (Matvei) rings the doorbell of an apartment, a hammer held tightly behind his back. The moment is punctuated by the creaking metal of an elevator arriving and the incessant barking of a neighbor’s Rottweiler. The door opens slowly, as one does when not expecting a visitor, to a thick-chested and bald older man. Stern and suspicious, he allows Matvei into the apartment on the assertion Matvei is seeking their daughter, his girlfriend, Olya. Hammer tighter in his fist, Matvei spies a middle-aged woman (Olya’s mother) meekly entering the room in a utilitarian green dress and blonde hair tiredly pulled up. At the sight of her, Matvei holds back from whatever act he was about to engage with his hammer and sits at the table across from the older man (Olya’s father) as he open mouth chews his dinner. The tension mounts with Olya’s father, a cop, of course, casually and crudely interrogating Matvei while the camera switches back and forth from sweeping shots between the two men disturbing the equilibrium and long shots that establish the table may be the only thing holding them back from each other.
Then the hammer drops. Both literally (to the floor from behind Matvei’s back for all to see) and figuratively when Olya asserts via phone call on speaker… she does not know who Matvei is.
From here, the scene revs to a hundred a miles an hour with some of the best splatterpunk action I’ve seen in years. The two men throwing each other into walls, through a table, the hammer slamming down again and again between legs just missing a crotch, an errant gunshot explodes a couch with hidden money. And finally, my favorite part, a tv still plugged in and flickering static HURLED across the room to Matvei’s head where he sits on his knees. In slow motion. Matvei’s expression remains almost serene as the screen shatters around his skull, pieces of glass dancing away, the image of static flickering to black.
And that… is only the first ten minutes.
I can’t give anymore away. The joy of this movie was in not knowing at all where the story was going. While the fight sequences were incredibly choreographed, reminiscent of Atomic Blonde in its brutality, the film doesn’t depend on the action to engage the audience. The characters were quiet, the dialogue in most cases syncopated. Show don’t tell to extremes. Instead of a lengthy monologue, the intent was demonstrated in the twitch of an eye or a facial expression melting to agony. I, at once, felt like I knew each character inside and out only to be surprised again by the next scene.
And the blood. Blood can be a tricky element to use in a film. It has to be the right color and consistency to play in a scene. In my opinion, blood doesn’t have to be hyper-realistic, but it does need to be complimentary to the mood of the work. Blood is EVERYWHERE in this film and, odd to say, it’s beautiful. A scene sticks out to me in particular, a seafoam green tiled bathroom with burgundy blood splattered in streaks up the wall. I want to meet Production Designer Viktor Zudin and shake their hand.
There are so many elements present that are classically hard to meld together, like the usage of the song House of the Rising Sun in the final moments or sweeping one-shots within a small room being torn apart, and this film NAILED IT.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE (Papa, sdokhni) fuses high octane cartoonish gore with quiet subtlety and I loved every destructive minute.