Underground Review


by William Thomas |
Published on
Release Date:

08 Mar 1996

Running Time:

167 minutes



Original Title:


This rambling parable of Yugoslavian history won the top prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, but this should not necessarily be taken as a plus. Although it has since been edited by nearly half-an-hour, Underground remains dangerously over-ambitious.

Blustering idealist Blacky (Ristovski) and his unscrupulous friend Marko (Manojlovic) are two incorrigible crooks whose daring raids on Nazi armoured convoys during World War II catapult them into the super-league of patriotic heros. Attempting to kidnap the slatternly actress whom he loves, Blacky is caught and tortured. Marko orchestrates an audacious rescue, and hides him in the cellars of his grandfather's house among refugees merrily churning out armaments for the Resistance.

At this point events are fully engrossing. But from here it's downhill all the way, and Kusturica's cuts have done little to increase his film's accessibility. One could be forgiven for thinking that in nearly three hours, he could find time to make it clear to the audience exactly what is happening, and why. On the contrary, we are frequently left dangling: bombarded by beautiful images but bereft of comprehension while marvellously surreal set pieces - the product of a spectacularly perverse mind - punctuate events. In particular, the bombing of Belgrade Zoo in the opening scenes is beautifully executed. But on balance, Kusturica is sturdier on style than substance.

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