Often described as ‘2020: The Movie’, unsettling horror She Dies Tomorrow is a strange movie to watch during the current pandemic, with the feeling of anxiety, isolation and existential dread being somewhat reflective of how many of us have felt over the past few months.
The film follows Kate Lyn Sheil’s Amy who believes she is going to die tomorrow, an idea that becomes contagious spreading like wildfire.
Jane Adams, Chris Messina, Tunde Adebimpe, and Katie Aselton also star in this darkly humorous tale about that feeling of impending doom.
We chatted to writer and director Amy Seimetz about the movie, how watching it during a pandemic brings another dynamic to it, the mystery of death and much more.
Zavvi: It is very ambiguous, open to interpretation. Is this to reflect how we don’t know much about death, which is a major theme of the movie?
Amy: Yeah, death is one of the greatest unknowns. The only thing known really is that it is inevitable, it happens to everyone and all living things.
And so I felt I should keep certain plot things obtuse, not look at the how you are going to die, just that it is going to happen.
Mystery was intentional, for example how Jane gets stabbed. It almost doesn’t matter how it happened, it just matters that it did. It’s closer to the feeling of when I think about death, there are so many questions left unanswered.
Zavvi: And how did the idea for the story, this virus-like idea, come to you?
Amy: It was trying to touch something that I felt words had boundaries for, a feeling I was experiencing which was gripping anxiety.
With my anxiety I would have conversations with my friends about it, and feel like I was passing off the anxiety to them.
And in addition to that, I’m a news junkie, and every few days it was like ‘the world is going to end’, it can create mass pandemonium. There is a fine line between being really well informed and then being obsessive about everything happening in the world.
So I was trying to meld those two ideas together. It was an interesting and comical way to explore contagion.
Zavvi: It was particularly striking it watching it amidst a pandemic.
Amy: It is very strange for me because I made it before the pandemic, but it is interesting because people are engaging with it in such a personal way, being in isolation and having the desire to connect to people but also distant themselves.
The day I finished it there were already talks about locking down states, so I haven’t had the experience of strangers watching it outside of the lens of the coronavirus.
Zavvi: Another striking thing is how sensory it is, with the dizzying lights and sound design. Did this visual language come to you early on?
Amy: We knew that we wanted to get something ecstatic in playing with the scores and the sound design. I wanted to reach pitches of complete melodrama, a cacophony of sounds and images to capture that overwhelming state.
Zavvi: And how did you decide on the Mozart song Requiem, which features quite heavily?
Amy: I was listening to that a lot and it became inextricable from the movie, as it is him writing about his own death.
I’m obsessed with writers who write requiems, so about their own deaths, which might be the most important piece of art they will ever undertake.
But it is also kind of fun because Amy is trying to connect with something, a feeling, and figure out how she is supposed to feel about this overwhelming feeling. So putting on Requiem, it’s about death so it is her saying she will feel it now, but she is unable to so she keeps trying, and trying, and trying, which I find wildly funny.
Zavvi: As you pointed to there, it is darkly humorous? Is it hard to keep it that way when tackling such heavy themes?
Amy: I have a very dark sense of humour so I felt I had to make it funny! But also it is like the cruelest joke life plays on us is that you die, and in addition to that, we as a society are trained to ignore it in order to function.
Like Jane at the party, not that I’m a buzzkill but sometimes I find myself being like why are we talking about that, why are we talking about this silly topic, shouldn’t we be talking about something important.
Also for me some of the most hilarious moments I have experienced is when I have gone through some trauma, because of the juxtaposition of the darkness. Your emotions are so raw it becomes the most hilarious thing. To get through it you make dark jokes, which are really f*cked up but what else am I meant to do, just cry all day.
Zavvi: Of course! And you are an actor as well. Has that impacted the way you direct, and do you prefer being behind the camera?
Amy: I really love directing, and writing is a means to an end. I don’t like writing when I am writing. Best thing about that is when it’s done.
And with acting, I love performing too. They all feed into each other.
When I’m writing I wouldn’t write something I don’t think an actor could perform, because I know how hard it is, and in directing I learnt so much with my acting, and vice versa, about taking chances and trusting the director. It has allowed me as an actor to grow.
She Dies Tomorrow is on Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player and Digital Download 28th August.
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