The premiere of the new film Squat32 has taken place in Kyiv. I should immediately note that the problems of this debut (the director is previously unknown Sasha Lidahovsky) are typical for our film industry. So I’ll try to review it from this point of view.
So, from the very name, as well as from the advertising campaign, it is clear that we are facing a youth subcultural drama. The typical set for this genre is known: trendy music, dances, love line, erotic scenes, a bit of violence, spectacular ruins, urban slums, bright frame resembling a video clip, jargon and juicy curses in the characters’ speech.
And all of these are present here, of course. And the plot is quite typical: the girl named Liza (Anna Adamovych), an employee of the foreign passport issuing center, goes to the monotonous exhausting work every morning, sleeps with the boss, at home she has the mother with an ever-grieving face and the father who silently chews something staring at the TV. Almost by chance, Liza gets into the Squat – an old house occupied by creative youth – and her life changes dramatically.
So, again, all the components are present. But they do not form a convincing whole.
To start with, as in a lot of film projects, especially debut ones, its stumbling point is the actors’ performance. Anna Adamovych has a good cinematic look. But in order to play such a character, the mere external attraction is not enough. After all, Liza is experiencing serious transformations: first, she is a browbeaten office mouse, then a rebellious hipster, then she falls in love, becomes a fashionable Bohemian photographer, goes through betrayal, decides to continue her career abroad. Each turn should be marked by changes in the character. Something in the eyes, in the gestures, in the intonations, even in the walk. There is none of this. In every single scene, she is equally cute and equally vague.
The same goes for the main male actor Oleksandr Bohachuk. His character is named Sasha, he is the leader and the founder of the Squat; this character needs charisma, distinct leadership presentation – however, Bohachuk only shows a lively talkative guy, who is no different from the rest of the male population of the house. In general, it seems that on the stage of handing out the roles, Lidahovsky forgot to define their development lines: this one is an intelligent old woman, this one is an artist with dark skin color, this one is a spiteful inhuman without any explanation of the reasons for his anger, this one is a teenage girl from the occupied territories; they are motionless types pasted to performers, in fact, they are not much different from each other. There is one more flaw in the actors’ performance – their language. Very often, their phrases sound fake and unnatural, full of Russianisms, and it seems that Bohachuk has a mess in his mouth.
Another common problem in our expanse is the script. The characters’ dialogues in Squat32 are full of pathos nonsense like “the main thing in art is the search”, “the city is a big anthill, everyone hurries somewhere”, “the dream must be responsible” and the like. The conflict that drives the story is the confrontation between the squatters and a corrupt politician who wants to demolish the house for the sake of building another high-rise, but there is no real sharpness and dynamics in the development of this plot, everything basically boils down to the endless chatter; the line of Liza who chooses between boring stability, squatter rebellion and her own dream, looks just as sluggish.
There is an element that is more specific to this particular film – it is the show. Young people here rap and dance regularly. With the exception of the explosive witty video, directed against the antagonist deputy, other music and dance scenes are almost a failure. And their dancing is not bad if considered separately, but the scenes themselves are shot ‘without a spark’ and do not always fit into the plot. And all recitative rap looks solid amateur, pardon me, it is simply painful to listen to.
As a result: there are no good characters – as a consequence, there is no drama between them – no dialogue – no film. It’s indeed a pity, because, for example, Lidahovsky had a wonderful videographer Vova Ivanov, who made the beginning of the film look just great: stationary plans of the morning outskirts of Kyiv, the smooth sliding of the camera along the old and new houses, the faces of the service center visitors. It might have been a really interesting picture. It might have been.
Again, the problems of Squat32 are typical for our genre film industry. It is possible that Lidahovsky understood what he was shooting about, but decided to simply copy the form of the youth drama worked out in America to be on the safe side, sacrificing purely Ukrainian realities, which eventually led to a comprehensive artificiality that caused irreparable harm to the film.
In fact, our (young) genre directors still don’t know how to talk about what they see. They do not know how to combine their ideas and formats for the implementation of these ideas in daily Ukrainian reality. Such skills might come with experience. But so far, too many authors in our screen industry live, in the words of Mandelstam, without the feeling of the country beneath.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – for opinionua.com