"A war is not a war until a man kills his brother."
-Marko the Poet
This sums up my reaction after finishing watching "Undergound:"
Holy shit! This is fucking incredible! This is one of the greatest films I have ever seen! It is, without a doubt, and will remain without a doubt, the greatest film of 1995, and one of the greatest films ever made. Although some films seem to lose their value after they fade in my memory, I will always consider Underground one of the greatest. The scenes stick fresh in my memory: Peter Popara biting down on an electric wire, Marko the poet shaking hands with Stalin, Ivan finding his monkey after more than 30 years. I have never seen a film that was able to so seamlessly blend black comedy and tragedy. This is, we are told, the Yugoslavian way of life.
The film begins during WWII, with two Communist party members fighting the facists invading their country by robbing trains and assasinating political leaders. The men are named Marko and Peter Popara, and they are best friends. These scenes are set in hilarity, as the two of them shrug of tiny things like bombings and Nazis to get the more important things in life, like getting an orgasm from the nearest brothel, or "rescuing" infinitely shallow actress Natalija Zovkov from "Franz," a Nazi luitenant. From their point of view, "rescuing" means tying up Natalija against her will and forcing her to marry Peter Popara. A strange love triangle begins to develop between the three, or perhaps quadrangle when you consider Franz. But when Marko tries to escape with Natalija and Peter Popara in a trunk, a gernade in the trunk goes off and it seems Peter Popara is mortally wounded. Cut to the liberation by Russia: we see Marko shaking hands with important Russian leaders and honoring his dead friend Marko. But then, twenty years later, he is married to Natalija, and we see him go into his basement...
The film is divided into 3 acts. The first is mostly comedy. The second is a mix of comedy and drama. The third is tragedy, but it ends on a strangely happy note - in the afterlife, we meet all the characters who have died, and they are partying and getting drunk on a wedding on a meadow by the ocean. The band that seems to constantly play racious jazz music behind them is there too.
Examine all the scenes where Marko goes into his basement. Every time we suddenly feel as if, in fact, it really is World War II. The scenes are brilliantly executed, showing all the disturbing and opressively disturbing details of life "at the house." And we can feel Ivan's pain, searching his desolated country, searching for his long lost monkey.
The film is clearly a metaphor for life under Russian rule, and the film is a very clever satire when viewed from a long point. But the filmmaker doesn't really want us to see it that way. In the end, it is explained - we are the Yugoslavians. We have a good time, dance, get drunk, tragedy occurs. We have a good time, dance, get drunk again. This is life and this is death.