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Review: Underground (1995)

Directed by: | 165 minutes | , , war, adventure, , | Actors: , Lazar Ristovski, , , Ernst Stötzner, , , Danilo ‘Bata’ Stojkovic, Bora Todorovic, , Dr. Nele Karajlic, , , Erol Kadic

The idiosyncratic director Kusturica likes an absurd, or rather absurdist, story from time to time. Yet he doesn’t just try to be different or artistic. Often there is more to the madness than just stubbornness. Ultimately, he really wants to tell a story, communicate something essential to the viewer. For example, a like ‘Arizona Dream’, with Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway in the lead roles, has an emphatically dramatic and connotation, despite the many imaginative, dream-like scenes and black humor. It’s not much different with Kusturica’s ‘Underground’ awarded with a Golden Palm. It is a circus with crazy characters, but one that has historical relevance and wants to say something in a broader sense about politics and the different forces in a society. So it is, in a sense, a movie with a mission. A film that aims to show how schizophrenic a country can sometimes be and act – personified by the two friends – how the outside world reacts (or has reacted) to a violent conflict, and how opportunism reigns supreme in crisis situations. This all sounds heavy, but it is delivered quite lightly, and in a surrealistic style that is strongly reminiscent of the work of Jeunet and Caro, especially ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘City of the Lost Children’. would also feel at home in this universe. There are worse styles. but it is performed quite lightly, and in a surrealistic style that is strongly reminiscent of the work of Jeunet and Caro, especially ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘City of the Lost Children’. Terry Gilliam would also feel at home in this universe. There are worse styles. but it is performed quite lightly, and in a surrealistic style that is strongly reminiscent of the work of Jeunet and Caro, especially ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘City of the Lost Children’. Terry Gilliam would also feel at home in this universe. There are worse styles.

‘Underground’ is divided into three major chapters. The first deals with the period that the Nazis occupied Yugoslavia, the second with the Cold War and the socialist Tito era, and the third with the ethnic cleansing in the 1990s. These periods are mainly used as a background against which the “adventures” of the two best friends, who both behave morally dubious, take place. The film may contain interesting symbolism, but the most eye-catching is the absurdist tone and funny finds. The film contains some scenes that will stay with viewers for a long time: the bombardment of a zoo, with monkeys, lions, and elephants running around, dying, and their nature following. that even live in the middle of the city and catch other species of animals never met before. Funny is the way a woman giving birth is illuminated – by two men holding up a violently pedaling boy on his bicycle, while his headlight is aimed at the lady. Or different moments in which Lazar Ristovski, or Blacky, suddenly plays himself in a film and later even takes up a gun to put things in order on the film set. And then there is the ever-returning wind band, which brighten things up a bit or on the other hand provide the whole lot with with fierce or moody honking. Or different moments in which Lazar Ristovski, or Blacky, suddenly plays himself in a film and later even takes up a gun to put things in order on the film set. And then there is the ever-returning wind band, which brighten things up a bit or on the other hand provide the whole lot with music with fierce or moody honking. Or different moments in which Lazar Ristovski, or Blacky, suddenly plays himself in a film and later even takes up a gun to put things in order on the film set. And then there is the ever-returning wind band, which brighten things up a bit or on the other hand provide the whole lot with music with fierce or moody honking.

The two male protagonists, Manojlovic and Ristovski, know how to disappear into their characters and portray their morally complicated and sometimes manic figures as well as possible, although the slapstick they have to work with is sometimes a bit on the annoying side. Mirjana Jokovic is even better off, who is a wonderfully false femme fatale – she never takes sides – and exudes a unique kind of sensuality. Which is clever, for such a pleasantly insane, somewhat melodramatic character. ‘Underground’ has a lot to it, but also does a lot of repetitions of moves and is unfortunately somewhat limited in its potential due to silly humor. Still, in the end it is definitely a film worth watching, at least for the adventurous cinephiles among us.

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