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Adapted from Dostoevsky's novella, Henry Czerny plays the narrator, Underground Man. Filled with self-hatred, he keeps a video diary where he discusses his own shortcomings and what he thinks is wrong in contemporary society. His bitterness spills over at a dinner party attended by his old college friends, an occasion which sends him running to a nearby brothel, where he meets Liza (Lee), a young prostitute. Written by
The Underground Man:
I'm a sick man. I think it's my liver but I refuse to see a doctor. From spite. I'm a spiteful man. I've been living like this for a long time. I used to work in the Building Department but I don't now. I was a bad civil servant. I was unciviled. I was spiteful. No, no, no, no. That's a lie! I'm not spiteful. Uh, I'm not anything. But I am sick. I'm crippled from too much introspection, as in too much awareness is a disease, a crippling disease, absolutely.
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No Russian authors were killed or injured during the filming of this motion picture. See more »
Sad bastard reasons away any attempt to make his life happier
When I saw this film, I was aware that it was a retelling of a Dostoyevky story but not one I had read it. I still found it a very enjoyable film, which held my attention the whole way.
The self-defeating, somewhat neurotic protagonist manages to mess up every opportunity of improving his life that comes his way but manages to do so from a position of either moral or intellectual superiority. He justifies logically all his disastrous decisions and questions the sanity of anything he does that is motivated by emotion. He can't see the point.
He vacillates constantly between rejecting everyone around him and craving their love, friendship or forgiveness. Having met the "hooker with a heart of gold" who tidies his flat and, uniquely in the film, shows him respect and love, he drives her away with brutality and insults. In a momentary spell of remorse, he searches for her in the rain-soaked streets and looking back on this act in his video diary asks: "Why did I look for her? If I had found her, I would just have got back with her and tormented her again"
The acting is excellent, the photography tight and claustrophobic, which suits the protagonists tiny world. The editing cuts between his direct contributions to video diary, historical narrative and his flights of fancy at various points. It DID make me want to read the book but I think the film a work that stands up well on its own.
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