“If you saw what I see for the future in Yugoslavia, it would scare you.”–Marshall Tito, 1971
“I think that this current conflict is the result of tectonic moves that last for a whole century. If there is anything good in this hell and horror, it is that the tectonic disturbance will result in absolute absurdity. And then a new quality will emerge from it.”–Emir Kusturica, circa 1995
FEATURING: Predrag Manojlovic, Lazar Ristovski, Mirjana Jokovic, Ernst Stötzner, Slavko Stimac, Srdjan Todorovic
PLOT:Two Yugoslavian gangsters join the Communist Party to resist the invading Nazis. One tricks the other into hiding out in a large cellar, where he and a small tribe of partisans manufacture munitions he believes are going to the resistance but which are actually being sold on the black market for years after the war has ended. Decades later, the ruse falls apart, and the former friends meet on the battlefields of Kosovo.
- Kusturica adapted Underground from a play by Dušan Kovačević, although he only took the premise of people tricked into residing in a cellar under the pretense of a fake war from that source.
- The movie was filmed in 1992 and 1993, while the Bosnian War was raging—and ethnic cleansing was going on.
- Emir Kusturica’s original cut ran for 320 minutes, about the same length as the six part serialized television version released later.
- Underground won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but was not nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar.
- Despite its international success, Underground was controversial nearer to home. Kusturica was accused of taking money from the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation, which would have been a violation of sanctions against the Serbian government. (The director countered that he had only accepted non-financial assistance, and won a lawsuit for libel against a playwright who accused him of taking money from the Serbs.) The film was also criticized for being too conciliatory by not blaming Serbia and Slobodan Milošević’s regime directly for the Bosnian conflict. (Kusturica himself is ethnically Bosnian).
INDELIBLE IMAGE: A burning wheelchair circling an inverted crucifix under its own power.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Flying bride; chimp in a tank; underwater brass band
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Up until the third act, Underground plays as an absurd, Balkanized satire—a far wilder ride than the average moviegoer is accustomed to, but not a film that went all the way to “weird.” That final half-hour, however, pulls out all of reality’s stops, sending the film off into a nightmarishly surreal conclusion, then soldiering on to a more conciliatory mystical ending. It’s the perfect, weird way to cap off a world cinema masterpiece.
Original trailer for Underground
COMMENTS: Emir Kusturica considers himself Yugoslavian. “In my Continue reading 341. UNDERGROUND (1995)