Wristcutters is about as obscure as this list has gone, by my reckoning. It might be as obscure as we’re going to dive in the whole list, even. So, naturally, there’s that sense of being in a secret club when you meet someone who likes it. It’s nice, and makes me realise what advantages it might have to be the culture-snob I come off as sometimes.
But while I bathed in this secret-society fun, I hadn’t actually watched Wristcutters since it first came out, half a decade ago, and received the traditional Birmingham one-week run. They should have kicked me out long ago, the Wristcutters Enjoyment Club. Anything more than the strongest moments, quirks and characters had escaped me.
Those include: Eugene, the mad-bastard Russian, letch, and frontman. The black hole under the passenger seat of his car, waiting to suck up unsuspecting sunglasses and tapes. The unique setting…
Oh yeah, the setting. I don’t generally like to synopsise too much but, as I’ve said, Wristcutters is about as obscure a film as this blog has ever touched upon. It’s also perfectly high-concept. The film opens with our nominal hero, Zia, committing suicide. (And if that, as an opening gambit, made you grin, please go and grab a copy of Wristcutters now, this film is 100% for you.) We zip through the aftermath, disinterestedly narrated by Zia, and end up in the toilet of a shabby pizza restaurant.
“Soon after I killed myself, I got a job here at Kamikaze Pizza.”
And that’s all the explanation we’re given. Welcome to the afterlife, for people who committed suicide. Everything’s the same, Zia tells us with a sigh, just a little worse. From here, the film follows his roadtrip across the suicide afterlife with Eugene. It’s a world populated with burnt-out and crashed cars, and soundtracked by musicians who committed suicide, from Joy Division to Nick Drake.
That stuff is all memorable. But what definitely, fully, stuck with me for that time was Gogol Bordello’s Through The Roof ‘n’ Underground, from the soundtrack. It’s a brilliant song, moving from delicate whimsy into a full gypsy-punk stomper, and perfect showcase for the oddities in the crevices of Eugene Hütz’s Ukranian-inflected, somewhat unhinged voice.
…Nevertheless, I’ve never really bothered to listen to anything else by Gogol Bordello. This one song is so tightly bound to the film, my love of it so dependent on their symbiotic relationship, that I’m just not that interested.
Through The Roof… permeates the film, existing as a song by Eugene’s band (from the film, rather than the real-world Eugene’s band, Gogol Bordello). This blurring of lines increases the potency of the song, giving it the feeling of hearing a Sex Bob-omb song at a party, and allows the song to be used throughout, used perfectly.
Eventually, the tape with the song on becomes an important plot device, its safety more treasured and its doom more feared than some of the characters. I mean … Don’t get me wrong. There’s more to the film than just this one song.
Despite being a film which revels in its indie status, from the very first moment, it’s an almost shockingly brilliant fantasy film. It manages a surprising amount of world-building, in its subtle way, within the slender 80-minute running time. It’s inventive, and the world is believable and thorough. But then, after a certain time has passed, the fact that one song remains, soundtracking faint memories? One song. That can be all that matters.