So, for now, the asset of the Ukrainian film industry was enriched by such an exotic thing as youth dance action movie – a genre honed to perfection in Hollywood, but unheard of and unprecedented in our country. The title is direct and commanding: Let’s Dance!
This project is, without exaggeration, long-suffering. The first scene was shot in 2005. Then the authors were burdened by the crisis of 2008. When there was enough footage for a full-length picture, the State Cinema Committee refused to fund it. The works on the music began in 2014, the shooting was resumed in 2015.
The director of the project is Oleksandr Berezan – a man from Donetsk, who lives and works in Kyiv. He studied theater directing at the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts, but dropped off, because “he needed to shoot movies and failed to combine the two activities”. He worked as a theater director (performances were held in Kyiv, Oleksandria, Donetsk) and a music video maker (it is important information for understanding what we see in the movie). He specializes in youth films and comedies. The previous film, a comedy about Lviv revelers‘ Noble Tramps was released last year. The script for Let’s Dance! was written by Oleksandr together with the producer Serhii Rozvadovskyi, who also played one of the roles.
From the first shots, it is clear that Berezan and Rozvadovskyi tried to make the film not just trendy, but also relevant. The story begins in Sloviansk, in 2014, in the midst of hostilities: two brothers dance and shoot a video amidst the ruins and burnt armored vehicles. The younger one is crippled by the explosion. The older one, Mykyta (Denys Rekonvald), is sent to Kyiv to take part in a dance competition to win a cash prize for his brother’s curing. The scenes of the tournament are interweaved with the love storyline and a criminal turn: of course, that it is Mykyta’s beloved who is kidnapped for ransom.
So, war, dancing, love and bandits. A profitable scenario set. However, Berezan has shown yet in Noble Tramps that his weak side is drama, that is, the composition of the plot and dialogues. If in the previous film it was compensated by the historical entourage and the Galician ‘ flavor’, here it became too noticeable. The whole lyrical line, for example, looks like the banalest, the most primitive melodrama. Mykyta’s speech is an extremely artificial, poorly constructed surzhyk. The criminal conflict would have been tolerable if the director had not turned it into a clumsy grotesque and thus deprived it of the acuteness necessary for the whole story. The duo of comical policemen is not comical at all. In general, in those moments when the actors need to react in the form of a game and pretense – the problems of both script and directing become visible to the naked eye. And homophobic remarks scattered around the speeches of characters are too much.
Everything is more or less compensated when the camera (skillful and fast Mykyta Kuzmenko) turns to the physical action. Not just to dancing; for example, one of the best racing scenes in our new film industry is when Mykyta rushes after the object of his adoration on roller skates through the center of Kyiv, as if providing a real master class in parkour. As for the dancing, it is without exaggeration a real extravaganza of styles, tricks, movements and music, most of which was written by Monatik (Dmytro Monatik). The choreographer Anatolii Sachyvko did a really great job, but it is also necessary to add such an important factor as the video editing – the craft that is still not mastered by our genre film industry as it should. All dance or confrontation scenes are ‘cut’ with such a sense of rhythm that even the weakness of actors recedes into the background. Sometimes it seems like you watch one huge video that lasts one and a half hour.
But this is really the case. Let’s Dance! is indeed a product of the new time, when directors and cameramen get knowledge not within the walls of universities, but by shooting advertising and music videos, mastering their craft in practice from the first day. Is it good or bad? For our film industry traumatized by the outdated post-Soviet education, it is certainly good. Due to this fact, from time to time even not the most outstanding directors manage to develop a bright and spectacular show on the screen.
If only they would finally learn to work with the actors. And if the writers learned to write normal dialogues. Then our film industry would be priceless.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com