A Friend of the Deceased + Talk

A vivid adaptation of Andrei Kurkov’s book
portrays a man who hires a contract killer to kill himself.
Part of Kyiv Critics’ Week x De Balie

Viacheslav Kryshtofovych
running time
Ukraine, France
Ukrainian, Russian, English
year of Production
Program maker
Stefan Malešević
Stefan Malešević
In collaboration with
Kyiv Critics’ Week

An intellectual rendered superfluous in the new capitalist landscape is compelled to take on a series of mundane odd jobs merely to survive. Consequently, it’s hardly a shock when his unfaithful wife eventually leaves him for another man. Disheartened by these events, our protagonist Anatoli decides to commit suicide by hiring someone else to organize it — after all there is no shortage of contract killers in 90s Kiev. Yet, even this proves complicated for Anatoli. A famous Ukrainian writer, Andriy Kurkov, wrote the script based on his own book.

This screening is presented as part of the KCW x De Balie collaboration, taking place from May 17th to May 21st. Under the banner of “Double Exposure: Ukraine in the 90s“, we will showcase films that were either shot in 90s Ukraine or depict this period of national awakening. Each screening will be followed by a conversation between one of the KCW curators and a Dutch film critic, while the closing event features a live music performance. See the full program and get your tickets for other events here.

Info about speakers

Hanna Datsiuk is a Ukrainian film critic, co-curator of Kyiv Critics’ Week, lecturer of the course on cinema at the Cultural Project, and curator of the cinema hall at the SWEET.TV online platform.

Sjoerd van Wijk is an independent Dutch film critic who focuses equally on the technical issues of filmmaking and the social context of the films he reviews. He also writes about music for Gonzo Circus magazine and makes his own films.

Hanna Datsiuk’s introduction of the film

“This adaptation of a book by Andriy Kurkov’s, a well-known Ukrainian writer, turned out to be one of the most sophisticated portrayals of the 90’s Kyiv routine, vividly decorated with elements of detective stories, melodrama, and absurdism. Its lead character is a man in despair who loses the meaning of life but finds it again through a series of semi-criminal, gloomy yet life-affirming sketches in the background of the Ukrainian capital. Kyiv here appears to be flourishing and recovering after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but simultaneously bears the weight of a complex past that seems to make each of its citizens a bit of a criminal.
I’m still trying to find common ground with ‘Friend of the Deceased’ as it carries many stylistic marks of 90s cinema, ones that have not aged gracefully. However, what I find fascinating is how this movie has become an urbanistic museum piece about my hometown. Kyiv seems to be a fully-fledged hero of this film, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next movie that will depict the ups and downs of this city—its fascinating antiquity, flashy consumerism, and, as I’m certain, post-war euphoria.”

KCW x De Balie collaboration was made possible with the financial contributions of Steunfonds Oekraïense makersDutch Foundation for Literature and Embassy of Ukraine in the Kingdom of The Netherlands.


Hanna DatsiukUkrainian film critic
Sjoerd van WijkDutch film critic