Underground is an epically-long humor film directed by Emir Kusturica, that’s mostly a satire on the history of the European nation of Yugoslavia from war times to cold war times, and back to war times again. Rather than dwell on the depressing or mortal nature of war, Underground instead looks at it from behind the face of a smiling young adult with a black eye, who thinks he’s funny (and in a weird way, kinda is) even when he’s not. There’s a lot of potential spin and propaganda with this; many hidden meanings can be taken with just about everything from the characters to the humor, but I wasn’t really concerned with any of that (and indeed, I couldn’t decipher much of it; I’m not that well-versed in foreign history). I was concerned with getting a good film with plenty to offer, and this film does have plenty to offer. Just not for me.
The film takes the approach of a black-out drunk foreigner desperately trying to be humorous. I say foreigner because I do not speak the film’s native language, and I am assuming most of the people that will read this don’t either, so there is a definite cultural barrier that I personally wasn’t able to overcome, even though I could detect it. I could tell that the film was trying to be blackly amusing, but the actual humor was simply lost on me. Still, there were a few more universally funny moments I did get a laugh out of, so don’t think the entire film is going to be a waste of time. The acting, for instance, was quite good, especially for a comedy, and there’s just such a zany wackiness to the mood of this film that it’ll easily hold interest, at least for most of it; other times, you might just stare cock-eyed at the screen, as yet another joke or bit flies over your head.
This won the Palme d’Or at the ’95 Cannes festival, and I’m not sure if it really warranted it. It’s definitely unique, and a hell of a ride, but aside from the epic qualities it carries, it just didn’t feel like a truly great film, let alone a Palme d’Or winner. But then again, maybe I’m wrong; this film has quite the devoted following, from what I was able to find. It does what it does very well, and really, the film has so much fun with itself that it’s kinda hard to dislike it. I didn’t dislike it, despite my tone through much of this review, but I didn’t find much about it that appealed to me. If you don’t mind the length, give this a shot, and see if it at least will appeal to you instead.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10