Interview - Kiril Sokolov, director and writer of Why Don’t You Die!
Young Tallints
“We try to create a cinematographic world with its own laws and own nature.”
By Tautvydas Urbelis, Young Tallints participant

Kirill Sokolov vigorously burst his way into the 22nd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival’s First Feature Competition with his violent and humorous feature film debut Why Don’t You Die!. We sat with Kirill Sokolov and talked about his unorthodox journey towards filmmaking, violence, humour and humanist aspirations. 

Tautvydas Urbelis: Your biography is very interesting and unusual – you hold master’s degree in Physics and Technology of Nanostructure and you are film director. Please tell us more about your journey from physics to filmmaking.

I watched movies all my life. When I was a kid I had lots of free time and sometimes watched 4 or more movies a day. I even remember the first time when my father brought a VHS tape of The Good, the Bad and he Ugly (Sergio Leone) during the times of bad quality bootleg VHS and single voice voiceovers. I liked Westerns ever since.

From then on my life changed. During my time in university, maybe in the 2nd or 3rd yeat I thought that “.. why just watch movies if I can make something myself?”. So together with some of my friends we made lots of amateur movies with ketchup as blood, lots of fighting. There were no screenplays, no serious ideas, just fun. These short films grew and now I am making feature film (laughs). It was very organic and slow process.

Did you ever think of studying filmmaking instead of physics?

No, because then I was still in school and cinema looked like some wonderful miracle, so becoming part of it seemed impossible. I thought that it is impossible to make movies if you do not have parents or relatives in the industry. Also you have to have lots of money. It was before the internet. I did not believe that I can do it. I was good at math and physics so I decided study physics. Then I made few short films, went to the festivals and understood that it is possible.

After finishing my studies, I had to choose physics or cinema. I thought 6 years of university education was a very important period, but it was enough.

How does your formal education influence your directing?

For example, I make a storyboard way before the shooting… Filmmaking is a very close to physics and maths, because every scene is like a maths problem or a test that you have to solve. You try from one angle, then from another until you succeed. Very practical, very logical process.

What inspired to make “Why Don’t You Die!”? It does not look like something you can see every day in real life.

You know, the main inspiration is my wife, her stories and our relationships. It seems weird, because lots of crazy things happen in a very short period of time, but if you look at it, 90 percent of it happens in real life. Life in Russia has strong influence on me, I feel the problems here. The theme of the movie is fun, but the problems are not.

I think it is safe to say that “Why Don’t You Die!” is a film of excess – bright colours, litres of blood, forceful camera work and enhanced sounds. Why have you chosen this type of cinematography?

To make it funny. If you film this story in live colour and without blood and without such camera work it would be much more depressing. I don’t want the audience to feel bad, I want them to laugh and to think about it after they leave cinema. To get some pleasure out of it. I don’t like movies that f*ck you up. We try to create a cinematographic world with its own laws and own nature. I don’t try to be funny or use lots of blood, it comes from within. For me it’s organic. I just do it. My short movies are similar.

What would you answer to the critics claiming that violence of screen instigates violence in real life?

(laughs) I don’t believe in it. I think movies have another effect, that movies help you to release some energy that you cannot release in real life. For example, I remember there was a period in my life full of problems and anger. During that time, I watched a lot of very bloody movies about revenge. Watching them made me physically healthier. It’s like psychoanalysis. My movies work the same. I don’t believe that after watching the movie people will go and shoot someone. There are problems on a deeper level. And a movie is just a reflection, it can help. I watched all kind of movies during my childhood and I don’t kill people (laughs).

Would you like to add something? Do you feel something in your movies is misunderstood?

I see a little problem. When people talk about this movie a lot of questions are about the blood. To be honest, there is not that much blood in this movie, there are others that has more. The blood is just one of the comedy elements in this movie, there are other interesting things like detective intrigue, suspense, duels, dialogue, a serious humanistic theme underlying the whole movie, the relationships of the family. Many people in Russia came and told me that they can relate to these things. Not only blood.