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Those who have seen "Underground" have probably noticed that we are not
watching one film but a collection of at least 10 films in one single
I watched with great enthusiasm the work of Kusturica after "Underground" in films like "Arizona Dream" or "Black Cat White Cat" films which prove to be more elaborate and "smoother" in terms of direction (brilliant works as well!!) but none of these films could ever equal the "nerve" and strength of a very young Kusturica at his best! One could see the passion and boldness that is at stake in this motion picture. It's as if he gambled his own life doing "Underground"
How else can you describe this work of art if not a mixture of devilish and holy images that take the shape of a flawless piece of theater-dance!!
The actors speak, dance and create (more than interpret) with a vigor rarely found outside the Balkan Circle!
In terms of theatrical aesthetics the film incorporates Stanislavski( realism at its best), Brecht (at certain points the actors step out of their roles and mock at themselves) and Artaud (they are flames more than humans)
Needless to say more!
Shocking, raw, heart-breaking!!
One of the most beautiful I have ever seen! 10/10
When I first saw this movie on the indie channel, I taped it. I immediately watched it again, totally stunned by the extent of energy, imagination, ideas, images with which I was being blasted. Talk about a universal masterpiece! This movie should be required viewing on every screen, large & small in the US. We Americans lead such narrow sheltered lives; we are so eager to see things in black & white, to have our opinions dictated by columnists & newscasters. This movie should take off a few blinders. On the other hand, people will still opt for easy cartoon ideologies over the indisputable truth about the ferocious & predatory predilictions of all "sides" of humanity. Thank god for visionary humorists like Kusturica.
Many years ago I hitchhiked through Yugoslavia and found a diverse,
down to earth people living in harmony. Many years later, after
economic decline and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Slovenia and
Croatia declared their independence and signaled the end of the country
of Yugoslavia. Emir Kusturica's Underground is a bold recreation of the
events that led to the breakup, spanning the years of the Nazi invasion
of World War II to the present wars. The film has been called Serbian
propaganda, self-indulgent, an anti-Communist tract, an anti-war tome,
cynical, nihilistic, and it may be any or all of those, but primarily
it is a work of art whose surreal vision and poetic language makes any
search for a coherent message elusive.
Underground traces the lives of Marco (Miki Manojlovic) and Blacky (Lazar Ristovski), two charming but immoral black market profiteers who fight the Nazis while hiding in a massive cellar with friends and family where they produce and sell munitions. Marko and Blacky both compete for the attention of actress Natalija (Mirjana Jokovic) after Blacky's wife Vera (Mirjana Karanovic) dies in childbirth, but Natalija plays both of them off against the German soldier Franz ((Ernst Stotzner). After the war, perhaps as a metaphor for the constricting rule of President Tito, Marko fails to inform the underground community that the war has ended, keeping everyone in the dark so that he can support the Communist regime and make a profit selling arms to middlemen.
Natalija helps Marco keep up the charade when he makes Blacky into a venerated national hero even though he is still alive. The only innocent characters in the film are Marco's slow-witted brother Ivan (Slavko Stimac) and his pet monkey Sino who form a lifelong bond after German bombs destroy the zoo where he was working. It is only when Sino crawls into the barrel of a tank and fires its guns do the inhabitants of the cellar work their way toward freedom and, in the process of discovery, react like space travelers finding a new world. The new world, however, looks very much like the old and when brother turns against brother, the disintegration of Yugoslavia is complete.
Underground is an exuberantly entertaining three-hour carnival filled with wild characters, singing, drinking, and fighting and a brass band that keeps the energy high with Gypsy melodies. While it is a broad comedy that often descends into borderline lunacy, it is also a tragic vision of the betrayal of a people. Its final Felliniesque image of all the characters reunited on a piece of land drifting into the sea tells more than the obvious metaphor of a broken land and a broken people. It is a testament to the endurance, the acceptance of life, and the commitment to joy of the Yugoslav people and a passionate cry for their regeneration.
Underground is The Film, my favorite... And nobody hasn't written any
greeting comments in 2005. So, I'm happy to be the first and I wish the
best year 2005 to all the Underground's fans. If you never had this
chance to see the long version (5 hours) of the film, give your
priority, this year, to watch it. After this, the Palme d'Or version
will feel you so short!!! If you live in Paris, I can help you to
discover the complete Chef d'Oeuvre.
Therefore, I understand that the film could be criticized on the political depths. But it is so easy to make movies without any involvement. Kusturica worked for 3 years on the film and involved himself on the content. But the film treatment is not only about Balkans war, but mainly about human ferocity and betrayment. Speaking Cinema, there is no film controlling so well aestheticism, scenario, actors, music and creativity. Emir did it and I am sorry that some arrogant journalists killed the film, getting it off the Cinema theaters without the popular success that Underground deserved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The scene when after all the pain and suffering the stuttering younger
brother finally finds his old ape friend is the most poignant scene in
all movie history. I am fully aware that that statement might be
interpreted as national bias, but it isn't.
What can be said about this movie that hasn't been said already? That a young upstart Balkan nation gambled away the only chance it ever had after WWI of creating a peaceful, stable, safe and prosperous state, opting instead for a "Yugoslavia". That cowards and opportunists always ruled the show over decent people. That these decent people were always great heroes when it came time to fight the enemies from without, but legendary cowards and naive sheep when it came time to fight the enemy within own ranks. That a bunch of criminals ruled a communist Yugoslavia for 45 years, keeping everyone in he dark as to what was actually happening in the world. That when the cat finally came out of the bag, the people in the basement proved catastrophically inept at handling the new situation and that that only leads to more pain and suffering. And all of it, the pain, the humiliation, the bitterness, comes down to, boils into, condenses itself into that one scene where the two old friends meet. And one young lad at that time lacking the luxury of living in a normal country opened his floodgates.
There is so much to take in while watching the movie. It is nothing short of a complete history of a deceased nation of brotherhood and unity, all of it told in an allegorical style. All of which I have described in the previous chapter. The music and visual style of the movie is breathtaking. There is not a second of the movie that is not entertaining or engaging. Not a second that is not significant or out of place. And the movie is full of life, for whatever happens, life goes on. With every pain there is joy and vice versa.
But this life is decidedly underscored by the forces of death and evil. The full extent of betrayal becomes apparent towards the end, initially being painted with naive humor. In this betrayal an entire country ad an entire people were sacrificed. The only thing that is left is memory. Memory of those one has lost during the dark years of Nazi invasion, the dark years of communism and the dark years of the recent wars. Memory of a past time, with its own rules, characters and experiences. One which humanity must never forget.
Scale: 10 MASTERPIECE, 9 Excellent, 8 Good, 7 OK, 6 Adequate, 5 Average, 4 Mediocre, 3 Poor, 2 Bad, 1 HORRIBLE
Kusturica believes (and so do I) that countries don't fall apart but are actively ripped apart. So if you want to see a short summary of Yugoslav history 1941-92 and an artist's view of why it fell apart, this movie will tell you more about it than many political books or articles. Almost everybody is portrayed with varying degrees of guilt: the communists for lying to the people, Germany for bombing Belgrade in 1941, Germany again for supplying the weapons in 1991, all nationalists... Please do not be surprised if you read negative reviews for Kusturica has stepped on many folks' feet. Invest some time, it's one of the best films in the past 15-20 years. BTW: The soundtrack is excellent, go listen.
Underground is without a doubt, one of the very finest movies to emerge from Europe. After seeing Underground, one realizes that one has just witnessed cinema at one of it's highest levels. This movie is what "The Tin Drum" was supposed to be, and so much more. Absolutely Brilliant on all levels.
Despite I saw it only once, and it was in '95 (I think) when it ran in
theatres - I can still remember it vividly and the feelings it stirred.
only think of a few more with such "powers" - maybe Cinema Paradiso is in
the same league.
It's truly great, it takes you on a journey together with these people and you live it with them, completely believable despite the absurdities! The photo is beautiful, the music is nothing short of wonderful. No way I can rate this below 10....
If for any reason you haven't seen this masterpiece, do it now. You won't regret it. Especially if you are from the Balkan region, it is a must. The story of the last 50 years in Yugoslavia in 3 hours in a film only Emir Kusturica can do. Some scenes simply stick in your mind and cannot get out. Extremely powerful and not at all tiring, despite its duration. Definitely in my personal top 10.
While attending college in Boston a Croatian friend of mine told me about this movie. I rented it a few days later, and let me say this is one of the greatest foreign films I have seen. While the historical and political substance of the film is largely missed by me, the story is strong enough that I connected emotionally with it. The humor of the film is very refreshing, being used to war films that are too heavy or dull to make me laugh. I recommend this film to anyone who appreciates a well told story. You will be rewarded with a beautiful picture.
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