Official Selection, Northside Film Festival, New York
Not too far from the Big City lies a small village plagued by poverty and sickness. There resides the brilliant poet Jonathan Mallory Sinus, whose complete body of work totals a mere six pages. Renowned for having amputated his legs in order to vanquish a haunting feeling of incompleteness, he also made it his mission to chronicle the uncanny stories of his entourage. In GO DOWN DEATH, the gifted Aaron Schimberg directs the very first big-screen adaptation of J.M. Sinus’s prose, spotlighting the phantasmagorical cast of characters that have marked the imagination of this most unusual folklorist. They are friendly soldiers held captive by a haunted forest, a prostitute who suddenly loses her sight, hearing and speech, as well as a child gravedigger manipulated by a trickster spirit. And this is but the tip of a pitch-black iceberg! All of these characters trudge on in their rotten hamlet, from which hope has vanished since the recent apocalypse and where the fantastical is a daily occurrence. Go forth with them towards death… GO DOWN DEATH!
An irresistible fragrance of tobacco and hard liquor emanates from Schimberg’s debut film. Through a labyrinthine and somewhat chaotic narrative structure, the American filmmaker signs a smoking love letter to the music of his ancestors as well as to the mythology that surrounds it. As in a Tom Waits song, one is beguiled by the succession of outlandish anecdotes that, despite their wildly surreal nature, evoke such universal themes as human suffering and the quest for redemption, often with a touch of humour. This return to the world vision of blues and folk traditions evokes the great novels of William Faulkner, even as GO DOWN DEATH offers us a resolutely modern filmic experience. With the same daring as a young Guy Maddin, Schimberg appropriates the language of cinema and obeys only the rules he sets out for himself. The result is a thrilling leap into the unknown. GO DOWN DEATH also benefits from the fruit of unbounded creative energy. Instead of searching for the village most perfectly suited to his vision, Schimberg himself built his film’s amazing set in a Brooklyn warehouse! An exploit that Lynch would surely applaud. Sumptuously shot on 16mm, GO DOWN DEATH is an inconceivably macabre symphony that will bewitch your senses!
— Simon Laperrière