In Kirill Sokolov’s debut feature WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) enters the apartment of his girlfriend Olya’s (Evgeniya Kregzhde) parents, to kill her father Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev), and restore her honour. Andrey proves to be a more formidable and ruthless opponent than he realised, and his attempts to bludgeon him to death with a hammer fail. But Matvey and Olya are not the only one’s who want revenge – Andrey’s disgruntled colleague, police officer Yevgenich (Michael Gor) also has his reasons.


In conversation with FRIGHTFEST’ Paul Risker and the director spoke about the surprising reality of directing his first feature, the influence of PULP FICTION and making a Russian film relatable to an international audience.


FRIGHTFEST: Why film as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment for you personally?


Kirill Sokolov: During my university studies as a physics student, I got an idea that it would be fun to make a short movie with my friends – just a joke, a movie with chicken guns and ketchup instead of blood. So we made it and it was cool, so we made another one and then another, and I decided it would be nice to write a story. I wrote a short script and we made another film, and then another, and finally I understood that this hobby brought me more joy than my regular job. At that time I’d finished university and I was working in a lab. I decided that maybe I should try to become a filmmaker, and so I left physics behind, and six years later I finally started to make this movie.


FF: How did the expectations of making your first feature film compare to the realities of the experience?


KS: I thought making a feature film would be difficult because of it’s size – there are a lot of people involved and you have to lead this ship. But when you make your short films without any budget, you are producer, director, writer, caterer and driver. You help the director of photography with the lighting, and so you’re doing everything. Following this experience, when I came to a feature film, it was a surprise how much easier it was than making low budget short movies, because there were so many professionals that were skilled in their specific roles. I was just directing the movie, and that’s a fun job. So for me, it was surprisingly much easier than making those short films without a budget.


It’s rather interesting, because I don’t feel like it’s a first feature film. Of course it is, but before I made this I’d made a lot of short videos with my friends, and after that I made around eight short films, and two of them are thirty minutes long. I also edited full length movies as an editor, and I wrote WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE, my fifth full length script. So inside of myself, I don’t feel like it’s my debut because I’d had experience in directing, writing and editing before.


FF: Speaking with Pablo Larraín, he spoke of how you discover the film in the final cut, which contextualises the filmmaking process as a journey of discovery. What was the genesis of this film, and would you describe it as a similar process?


KS: It’s three movies inside of one – we have three main characters and this one situation from three different points of view. It’s funny because I had an idea about a guy (Matvey) who wants revenge against the father of his girlfriend (Olya), because he abused her in her childhood. When I started to write the story, in the first draft this guy came to the apartment, he struggles and after 30 minutes of the story he was sat on the sofa with nothing to do until the end [laughs]. As a scriptwriter you understand that you have a big problem, because your main hero is doing nothing after page thirty of the script, and it’s impossible because he has to move the story forward.


I started to think about how to get around this and I had an idea that was inspired by PULP FICTION, which is broken into three parts – each of which has its own main character, and we see the story from their point of view. Each part is a small movie, but all things are mixed together that it looks like one non-linear movie. To stay true to this we have three characters: Matvey, Yevgenich and Olya, and the three parts are small movies that could be separated, because each story has it’s own small life. But everything is mixed together in this one apartment, this one situation, with the same characters, and it just looks like a non-linear movie. So it was a working process as to how the movie came to look how it does now.



FF: Watching the screening at FrightFest, what struck me was that here was a Russian film playing in London, inspired by Sergio Leone and Quentin Tarantino - Italian and American influences. The power of cinema and the arts is the ability to dismiss the political and economic that creates a divided world of nationalistic tension.


KS: That’s absolutely true, and I travelled with this movie for a year to different festivals. Brazil has a different political, economic and social situation, a different mentality. When you come to Brazil and you meet people who are fans of genre movies, and have watched the same movies you’ve watched all your life, in this moment all the borders disappear and you easily understand these people, and they understand you.


We tried to make this movie relatable in every part of the world, by taking very simple and general cliches or elements. For example, there are some bits from action movies, some bits from thrillers, these very simple stories about revenge, which is relatable everywhere. But then I tried to put it inside of the Russian mentality and cultural core to make people feel that at the same time there’s a Russian sense of life to it.


Yes, the best thing about art, movies and literature is that it’s not about nationality, borders or the political system - it’s about people and their stories.


FF: Filmmaker Christoph Behl remarked to me: “You are evolving, and after the film, you are not the same person as you were before.” Do you perceive there to be a transformative aspect to the creative process for you personally?


KS: In every country, no matter whether you are in the middle of Hollywood or you’re in either Russia or India, it’s difficult to make your first feature film. It’s hard to find producers and money because the film industry sits inside of a big bubble, and you’re outside of it. But when you finally finish your first feature, you understand that you’re finally inside of the bubble and now you can work, and after this first movie you can work much faster.


From when I first decided I wanted to be a filmmaker, it took six years for me to make WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! Now I have a few future projects and I’m talking to different producers. I feel that the main change was that I can finally work, and that’s very cool. I don’t know about other changes because as I told you, I had a lot of short movies, and so I was prepared inside of myself – professionally I didn’t have a big transformation.


WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! is released on Blu-Ray, DVD and on Digital in the UK and U.S from the 20th April 2020 by Arrow Films.


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