a modern classic?
, 31 Oct 2006
I was very intrigued what I would make of this film, considering the contrasting views of other reviewers: was it five-star wonderful or a no-star disaster? To start with, its not easy viewing with subtitles, unfamiliar cultural references, loads of things taking place on screen and two leading characters who looked so similar, at first I found it difficult to tell them apart. This added to the confusion in a film which was portraying the confused events of a turbulent history. It may say more about my attention span than the film, but I found it better to take a couple of breaks from the film, as it is so intense. So what kept me watching and what makes this a good no, brilliant film? Number one the images. The director has produced tableaux which are visually stunning and are on a par with the best of European cinema: I didnt think they made films like this anymore. Second, the story of Yugoslavia, a country forged in the insanity of the Second World War and destroyed in the insanity of the Balkan Wars at the end of the twentieth century. Between, Tito treated the population like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed on sh*t), making them hide underground from imaginary enemies (hence the name of the film). In existence for about fifty years, the director sees the Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia as a crazy invention of history, now remembered just as a weird dream: Were all mad, its just not all of us have been certified yet, as one of the characters says. The film's surreal, dream-like quality is very successful: the manic village bands accompaniment, death represented as underwater swimming, the insane roundabout of burning bodies, etc. etc. This is a film that requires effort to watch but its worth it. In time, 'Underground' could become a classic of European cinema.
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