Underground (1995 film)
|Directed by||Emir Kusturica|
|Produced by||Pierre Spengler
|Written by||Dušan Kovačević
|Music by||Goran Bregović|
|Editing by||Branka Čeperac|
|Distributed by||New Yorker Video|
|Release dates||May, 1995 (Cannes premiere)
October 25, 1995 (France general release)
26 December 1995 (Australia)
8 March 1996 (UK)
20 June 1997 (U.S.)
|Running time||167 minutes|
|Box office||$171,082 (USA only)|
It is also known by the subtitle Once Upon a Time There Was a Country (Serbian: Била једном једна земља, Bila jednom jedna zemlja), which was the title of the 5-hour mini-series (the long cut of the movie) shown on Serbian RTS television.
The film uses the epic story of two friends to portray a Yugoslav history from the beginning of World War II until the beginning of Yugoslav Wars. The film was an international co-production with companies from FR Yugoslavia, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Hungary.
The theatrical version is 163 minutes long. In interviews, Kusturica stated that his original version ran for over 320 minutes, and that he was forced to cut it by co-producers.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Reaction
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 Soundtrack
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2012)|
The film depicts the life of two friends throughout World War II, Cold War, and War in the Balkans.
The film opens in Belgrade, the capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in the early morning hours of Sunday, 6 April 1941 as two roguish bon vivants Petar Popara nicknamed Crni (Blacky) and Marko Dren are heading home following a night of hard drinking and partying out on the town. Riding atop a horse carriage while tailed and serenaded by a brass orchestra, they're drunkenly singing and shooting their way through the city's downtown. They pass through Kalemegdan and shout salutes to Marko's brother Ivan who's an animal keeper in the city's zoo. A stutterer with a lame leg, Ivan is already up to feed the animals and waves to them warmly as he records food portion amounts while listening to early morning radio bulletins.
As the drunk duo pulls up in front of Blacky's home, his pregnant wife Vera comes out to angrily usher her husband into the house while naggingly threatening to leave him "just like Marko's wife left Marko". Intoxicated Marko pulls Vera aside and lets her know that they enrolled Blacky in the Communist Party (KPJ), but she's way too angry about Blacky's irresponsible behaviour as a husband to even properly process that piece of information.
After saying their drunken goodbyes for the night, Blacky goes into the house while Marko proceeds on and picks up a street prostitute before disappearing into his house with her.
Part One: War
A couple of hours later as the Sunday dawn appears, Ivan is making rounds around the zoo to feed the animals, hungover Blacky is eating breakfast while pregnant Vera complains about his supposed affair with a theatre actress, and Marko is preparing for sex with his prostitute as he lecherously watches her take a scrub in his bath tub. Suddenly, the roar of the planes is heard, and Nazi bombs begin falling on Belgrade. In the ensuing chaos as people run for cover (including Ivan desperately trying to save his beloved animals), unflinching Blacky and Marko show no signs of panic. The former stubbornly sits at his table eating his breakfast, impulsively cursing the Nazis as his wife pleads with him to go to the shelter, while the latter is about to climax with the prostitute on top of him when suddenly, frightened by the bombs, she runs away in horror thus forcing him to finish himself off.
After the air raid is over, Blacky goes out against the wishes of his wife and inspects the devastated city. Encountering building ruins and escaped wild animals from the zoo along the way, he also runs into disconsolate Ivan carrying a baby chimp named Soni. Blacky's parting piece of advice to his best friend's brother is a stern: "Stop crying! You want the Germans to see you like that and laugh at you?" before giving him some money to buy milk for the monkey.
Royal Yugoslav Army's resistance is quickly broken, and Nazis soon occupy and dismember the entire Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Blacky starts operating clandestinely as a communist activist along with Marko and others. Their activism mostly consists of stealing German weapons shipments as well as jewellery and other valuables from the city's elite. In theory, the idea is to send all the weapons and money made from the stolen goods to Partisan guerrillas fighting in the woods, however, much to Blacky's dissatisfaction, many of the 'activists' are using the rackets for personal gain.
Blacky occasionally visits his mistress Natalija Zovkov who's been assigned to a special actors' labour brigade that's helping out with the city's rebuilding effort under German occupational control. An acclaimed, pampered, and celebrated actress in the National Theatre, Natalija is finding it hard to adapt to manual labour, especially in lieu of also having a sick, wheelchair-bound brother Bata to take care of. On one of his visits to the site where she's cleaning bricks with her brother and other actors, Blacky brings her a stolen necklace, which cheers her up momentarily, but she now generally sees their relationship as a liability fearing that it could only bring her trouble like being sent away to the prison camp, especially after she heard about the bounty prize Germans have set for his capture. However, she's not without options as she's caught the eye of a high-ranking German officer named Franz who is more than willing to indulge her and pay for Bata's medicine, meaning that her manual labour days are over. Naturally, Blacky is furious over her relationship with Franz and watches in disgust as two of them drive off together.
Meanwhile, Marko has set up weapons storage and hideaway spot in the cellar of his grandfather's house. Following their interception of a large trainload of weapons, Marko and Blacky are mentioned by name and identified as dangerous bandits in Nazi radio bulletins. While Blacky is off hiding in the woods as Germans are intensifying door-to-door raids in the city, Marko takes Vera, Ivan and many others into the cellar to hide.
Vera is due any minute and gets contractions immediately upon entering the cellar. She's not feeling well physically and emotionally, and is especially mad about Blacky not being there for her. After giving birth to a baby boy, she instructs Ivan to name the baby Jovan before passing away on the cellar stairs as Ivan weeps inconsolably.
It's now exactly three years later, the war still rages on, and Blacky is in town to celebrate his son's birthday at a local communist hangout. Despite the occasion being bittersweet (it is also the third anniversary of Vera's death), he's in his element: loud, brash, and boisterous - lighting a candle for his deceased wife before ordering rounds of drinks and proudly showing his son's photo around. Marko, who by now has progressed to the party secretary position, shows up and warmly greets Blacky before proceeding into the back room to make a weapons deal with some comrades. As Marko counts a huge stash of cash they've just given him, exuberant Blacky comes in and tells him to go out and buy the biggest bouquet of flowers available before giddily declaring: "there'll be a wedding". Blacky also inquires whether "everything is arranged about the priest's arrival", to which Marko assures him that it is all taken care of. As Marko leaves, Blacky goes back to the bar and picks a fight with some communist activists he knows to be weapons trade profiteers. In the middle of a fist fight, Marko returns with a requested bouquet and promptly joins the fracas on his friend's side.
The two best friends then head for the theater in jovial mood while blurting out random lines from a Mayakovsky poem. The bravado and jocular tone are only briefly interrupted when Blacky states his disgust about many activists within the organization using the situation for personal profit, urging Marko to do something about it "as a party secretary".
Once in the theater, they see Natalija performing on stage in front of beaming Franz and other German officers. Overcome by intense feelings of love and jealousy, Blacky forces his way backstage and enters the scene pretending to be part of the production. Speaking in broken German he requests the other actor to tie him and Natalija together back-to-back with a rope. With Natalija fastened to his back, Blacky walks up to the edge of the stage and shoots Franz twice in the chest before running away as chaos ensues inside the theater.
With Natalija still strapped to his back, Blacky manages to reach the river boat anchored just outside of Belgrade. Naturally, Marko is along as well, in addition to a brass band, and all are getting ready for a forced wedding despite Natalija's protestations. As they eat and drink, waiting for the priest to show up, live band is playing loudly and exuberantly. Blacky criticizes his tied up bride-to-be for performing for Germans, lecturing her that other women like her take care of the wounded in the woods. However, he can't bear to admonish her for long as his infatuation runs deep, but he is not nearly as forgiving when it comes to other artists who similarly performed for Germans as he vows to personally strangle National Theater director Jovan Popović. As Blacky goes off into the bushes to relieve himself, taking the brass orchestra along, he leaves Natalija tied in ropes and instructs Marko to "take care of my bride". In the bushes, Blacky is approached by Partisan messenger who just arrived from the high command informing/threatening him that comrade Leka plans on taking disciplinary action against him if the weapons do not arrive soon. Blacky is not worried and brings the messenger into the boat to show him it is full of weapons and to assure him he will transport them as soon he is married.
While this is going on, Marko starts to put the moves on Natalija through belittling his best friend by pointing out class disparity between her "our greatest actress" and thuggish Blacky. To that end he tells her that Blacky had been falsely presenting himself as an electrical engineer, when in fact he is "a mere electrician - a pole climber" by which she seems disgusted. Marko even brings Blacky's morals and communist resolve into question by telling her he has completely changed since he came into the money. Marko further sweetens his case by telling her she needs a rational intellectual like himself by her side to which she seems receptive. Suddenly, Blacky bursts in and roughs up both Marko and Natalija. Faced with Blacky's fury, she quickly changes her tune and now assures him that she wants to marry him as Marko also pleads his case and denies any wrongdoing. Blacky is somewhat pacified, but still decides to humiliate Marko by riding him like a horse around the boat deck while the band is playing.
A couple of hours later there is still no sign of the priest, but the wild night of drinking and dancing continues regardless as Blacky, Marko, and Natalija seem to have abruptly cleared up their misunderstandings. As the dawn appears, the party is interrupted by German soldiers surrounding the anchored boat. Suddenly, Franz is seen yelling from the distance behind his soldiers, demanding Blacky and Marko release Natalija. Blacky is shocked at the fact Franz is not dead, at which time Natalija unctuously points out that he always wears a bulletproof vest, before running off from the boat into Franz's waiting arms. Confused and angry, Blacky irrationally chases after her, but gets only as far as the boat ramp before Germans stop him with guns drawn. He yells back at Marko to open fire, but instead of heeding his request, Marko starts the boat up and sails off, leaving his friend in a lurch. Blacky is captured by Germans and taken into custody.
The very next day Blacky is being tortured in the city hospital by electroshocks while Franz and Natalija visit her brother Bata at the same hospital and discuss moving him to a sanatorium in Austria. Meanwhile, Marko has found a way to enter the building through an underground sewer passage and posing as a doctor manages to enter the hospital room where Franz, Natalija and Bata are talking. Sneaking up on Franz, Marko strangles him to death with a cord in front of Natalija who switches sides once again. Marko then proceeds to a room where Blacky is being tortured and manages to free him. The plan is to leave with fatigued Blacky hidden in a suitcase, but Blacky requests a bomb to commit suicide in case he is captured again. As they are all heading back through the sewer, Blacky drops the activated bomb by mistake and gets blown to bits inside the suitcase.
He manages to survive the explosion though, but requires an extended recovery period in the cellar.
A few days later on Easter 1944, Marko and Natalija, now an official item, are watching comatose Blacky from their living room as he recovers in the cellar below. They proceed to dance and exchange exaggerated tenderness as the allied bombs start to fall on Belgrade. Natalija's response to most of Marko's fawning love declarations is: "Marko, you lie so beautifully".
Soon, the Red Army accompanied by Yugoslav Partisans enters Belgrade thus liberating the city from the Nazis for good. Marko, an important cog in the revolutionary machine is seen proudly waving the communist Yugoslav flag and victoriously exclaiming: "Freedom".
Over the coming years he is advancing up the party and state ladder: he holds fiery speeches from the National Theater balcony during the Trieste crisis, he socializes with Josip Broz Tito, Ranković and Edvard Kardelj - attending lavish parties and going on foreign state visits with them, and he stands right next to Tito during military parades through downtown Belgrade. Throughout it all, Natalija is right by Marko's side.
Part Two: Cold War
It is now 1961, and Marko is one of Tito's closest associates and advisors, while the physically recovered Blacky and company are still in the cellar under the impression that the World War II is still going on above.
Marko and Natalija attend a ceremony to open a cultural center and also to unveil a statue of Petar Popara Blacky whom everyone thinks died fighting the Nazis and is thus awarded the status of a People's Hero. Before delivering a keynote speech, Marko is approached by a film director who inquires whether he would allow Natalija to play a role in the film based on his own memoirs. Marko's answer is a vehement no, but he does agree to visit the set.
Below ground, the full extent of Marko's meticulous deception is revealed. It goes to astonishing details: from time to time he stumbles down into the cellar looking haggard and beaten, pretending that Gestapo roughed him up so that the people below still think German door-to-door raids are on-going. He also regularly plays air-raid sirens as well as various newsreels that show Nazis holding strong on Eastern Front, while urging restless Blacky to stay below and save his energy for the final battle. As a special incentive, Marko even brings his best friend an engraved watch as a personal gift from Tito himself.
With the help of his grandfather who is in on the devious con, Marko oversees the weapons manufacturing and even controls time by adding hours to a day so the people in the cellar think that only 15 years passed since the beginning of World War II instead of 20. They're continuously making weapons, and Marko profits from it enormously.
The filming of an epic state-sponsored motion picture based on Marko's memoirs titled Proleće stiže na belom konju (Spring Comes On A White Horse) begins above ground. Receiving a hero's welcome by the film's cast and crew, Marko and Natalija visit the set during shooting of the scene that erroneously depicts events on the anchored river boat on that fateful night in 1944.
Back home, in order to keep the lie going, Marko has prepared a text for Natalija to deliver in front of Blacky down below. The premise is that she's been raped and beaten by Germans, and left for dead. After some initial resistance, Natalija agrees to go along with it and in make-up that's making her look savagely beaten even delivers a scripted "I love you" to Blacky who seems energized by her declaration.
Soon, Blacky's 20-year-old son Jovan is getting married to Jelena, a girl he grew up with in the cellar. Marko and Natalija are naturally invited for a celebration. Blacky pulls his son aside and tells him he can't wait any longer and that he will go above to fight as soon as everyone gotten drunk. He also relays his frustration about being told to wait for Tito, the party or the Russians and has decided to take matters into his own hands.
At the other table, all is not well with Natalija and Marko as she, influenced by alcohol, starts making a scene accusing Marko of stealing her youth and bemoaning her bad luck to have ever come across him. She soon begins admonishing him for the crime he got himself involved in, but he soon pacifies her at which point she repeats her statement "You lie so beautifully".
However, Blacky has heard their conversation and instead of personally killing Marko he hands him a gun and tells him to finish it himself. Blacky proceeds to tie Natalija to his back while Marko instead of committing suicide, blows out his own kneecaps with a gun. As he's doing that, Ivan's monkey Soni has wandered into a tank and fires a round blowing a hole in the wall.
Blacky with Natalija tied to his back goes out and calls his son Jovan along. Along the way through the underground corridors, he lets Natalija go, reasoning that "women and revolution don't go together" with a promise of reuniting soon.
Blacky, with his son Jovan, emerges from underground for the first time in decades. Believing WWII is still on, they kill the lead 'Nazi' on the set of the film dramatizing Blacky's own exploits twenty years earlier. In the manhunt Jovan drowns but Blacky escapes.
Part Three: War
The final section, set in 1992 at the height of the Yugoslav wars, sees Blacky as an embittered yet still patriotic warlord; he inadvertently orders the execution of Marko and Natalija who are still making a living as war profiteers, running guns for the various factions. In a surreal ending, all friends and family, living and dead, are reunited at Jovan’s wedding, where Ivan (no longer stuttering) ends the film with a closing monologue.
- Miki Manojlović as Marko Dren, Communist Party official climbing up the party ladder who becomes an arms dealer
- Lazar Ristovski as Petar "Blacky" Popara, an electrician who enrolls in the Communist Party before World War II and ends up a Serbian patriot during the Yugoslav Wars
- Mirjana Joković as Natalija Zovkov, an opportunistic theater actress constantly switching loyalties
- Slavko Štimac as Ivan Dren, Marko's stutterer brother who cares for zoo animals
- Ernst Stötzner as Franz, a Wehrmacht officer in charge of Belgrade. Stötzner also portrays an actor playing Franz.
- Srđan Todorović as Jovan Popara, Blacky's son, who lives almost his entire life underground
- Mirjana Karanović as Vera, Blacky's wife
- Danilo Stojković as Grandfather, Marko's grandfather who owns the cellar and helps perpetuate his ruse
- Bora Todorović as Golub, the leader of the brass orchestra that frequently accompanies Blacky and Marko
- Davor Dujmović as Bata, Natalija's crippled brother
The shooting of the film began in fall 1993 and lasted off-and-on until early spring 1995. The state-owned Radio Television of Serbia had a small role in financing the film, and the film used rented Yugoslav army equipment as props.
As soon as Underground premiered at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival and especially when it was awarded Palme d'Or, it faced aggressive and vitriolic criticism in Europe along political lines.
Critics saw the characters Marko and Blacky as "Kusturica's idealization of Serbs trapped into desperate acts by history and others' evil while the cowardly characters in the film were Croats and Bosnians, who chose betrayal and collaboration." While some critics claimed the film propagated a pro-Serbian view of the Yugoslav conflict (including animosities during WWII), others suggested that its characterization of Balkan ethnic groups was equally caustic to each.
That Kusturica is consciously making propaganda, rather than merely being a victim of aesthetic inspiration gone politically wrong, is proved by his use of documentary material. Wherever possible he uses films that discredit either other Yugoslav nations or the 'rotten West conspiring against Serbs'. We are thus presented with archival footage showing the Nazis being welcomed in Zagreb and Ljubljana in 1941. When dealing with the present war, however, Kusturica refuses to use archival film - to show, for example, the bombardment of Vukovar, or the three-year-long destruction of his native city by the Serbian army - just as he refuses to show us film of the triumphalist farewell given in Belgrade to the Yugoslav army and its tanks as they went to wage war, this war, in Croatia and Bosnia, against literally unarmed people. At his press conferences, he refers to the war in Bosnia as 'civil war'. He describes as 'an earthquake' a war which was prepared politically and militarily in detail for months in Belgrade; which was started by special units sent from Belgrade to Bosnia; and in which the worst crimes, rapes and deportations of population have been executed according to a plan and without the least spontaneity - all with the aim of creating ethnically pure territories in Bosnia. A major role in all this was played by Belgrade Television. If this is an earthquake, then Kusturica is indeed the spontaneous and naive artist he pretends to be, just as spontaneous, naive yet all-powerful as his heroes, who destroy and kill all about them out of generosity of spirit and love of Yugoslavia, its other people and nations - the same love and generosity that has motivated Arkan and Šešelj.—Stanko Cerović, "Kusturica's Lies Awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes"
In the years since, Cerović seemingly substantially changed his opinion of Kusturica and of Underground. Asked in February 2012 about the movie and its director, Cerović said:
Kusturica is a great director and I love his movies. He sees politics as a gifted artist does: he feels the deep historical movements, he feels the direction that the world is moving in, and feels what happens to the people. But, he doesn't understand how politics function in real time. Many wrongly labeled him a nationalist, but the only nationalism I see in him is Balkan-wide in character and manifests itself in the way that he sticks up for the losers and the miserable around us. He doesn't mind standing up to the brute force and the hypocrisy of the so-called civilized world. He's not ashamed of the Balkans. Unlike real nationalists who always have a "go to" group to menace and belittle like the Gypsies or the blacks, he goes out of his way to be part of those disenfranchised groups both as a man and artist. The fact that he doesn't understand politics well isn't a big problem for him as an artist, except in time of great tragedy when he's making something that touches on politics. In the context of Yugoslav Wars, Underground is a politically unfortunate film. It walks past the people's suffering, which was taking place precisely during the film's production and release and it also wrongly interprets the Yugoslav history and communism. Still, none of that would have really mattered had the movie appeared outside of the context of that war. It's quite possible that Underground will age well (I haven't seen it since then) meaning that as the war becomes a more and more distant memory, the movie will get that much better, finally ending up with a purely artistic and universal value. To put it in general terms: you can't make a political film if you don't have a full grasp on history and politics. It is especially hard to make political film in the middle of a war and not have it be propaganda (which Kusturica's movie isn't).... Every once in a while, I come across his interviews where he touches upon global issues, the West, imperialism, mundialisation, the Balkans, Serbia... and I mostly agree with him.—Stanko Cerović
Lévy and Finkielkraut vs. Kusturica
Throughout the 1990s, Kusturica was frequently attacked by French public intellectuals Bernard-Henri Lévy and Alain Finkielkraut in the French media over his life and career choices. Generally, the two adopted the Bosnian Muslim official nationalist view of Kusturica as a "traitor who crossed over to the enemy side thus turning his back on his city, his ethnic roots, and his nation", often publicly attacking him along similar lines. Kusturica, for his part, didn't hold back either, responding aggressively to the duo's accusations. The Lévy and Finkielkraut attacks particularly intensified after Underground won Palme d'Or in 1995, often crossing over into name calling and insults. It started in June 1995 with Finkielkraut accusing the Cannes jury in Le Monde of "rewarding a Pan-Serbian nationalist propagandist". Kusturica responded several months later, parodying Finkielkraut in sarcastic tone while criticizing Le Monde for even publishing Finkielkraut's vitriolic text without him seeing the film first. Finkielkraut was thus forced into admitting that he hadn't actually seen the movie when he wrote the previous piece, justifying this by writing in Libération "that offensive and stupid falsification of the traitor taking the palm of martyrdom had to be denounced immediately". Meanwhile, Lévy called Kusturica a "fascist author" while reserving his further judgment upon seeing the film. After watching Underground, Lévy called Kusturica a "racist genius in the mold of Louis-Ferdinand Céline" and later even made a film criticizing Underground. The entire episode soon prompted other intellectuals such as André Glucksmann and Peter Handke to join the debate.
During the September 2008 discussion between the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and Bernard-Henri Lévy on the issues surrounding the historical and social significance of May 1968 in France, Žižek brought up Underground and Kusturica to Lévy by saying: "Let me find another point of contact with you. I hope we share another point, which is - to be brutal - hatred of Emir Kusturica. We do agree here. Underground I think is one of the most horrible films that I've seen because it's as if this poem by Radovan Karadžić that I quoted was set to film there. What kind of Yugoslav society you see in Kusturica's Underground? A society where people all the time fornicate, drink, fight - a kind of eternal orgy. And here what you referred to as this "eternal youth excessive energy" - one path, I'm not saying the only one, one path leads to Radovan Karadžić I claim. I claim that the moral duty today is precisely to problematize this carnivalist transgressive model 'Order is bad, let's suspend the rules, let's have a free excess and so on'". Lévy answered that he considers himself an "enemy of Kusturica, the man", but that Underground is "not a bad movie" before going on to commend the film's narrative structure and conclude that "Kusturica is one of the cases, we have some writers like this, where the man is so, so, so more stupid than his work" before likening Kusturica again to Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
The reaction to the film continued long after its theatrical life ended. On 8 March 2001, Serbian newsmagazine Vreme published an op-ed piece titled 'Hvala lepo' by Serbian playwright Biljana Srbljanović in which she refers in passing to Underground as "being financed by Milošević" and accuses Kusturica of being "an immoral profiteer". She goes on to accuse the director of "directly collaborating with the regime via his friend Milorad Vučelić".
On 20 March 2001, Kusturica decided to sue Srbljanović for libel.
Before the first court date in September 2001, Vreme magazine organized a mediation attempt between the two parties, with Kusturica and Srbljanović meeting face to face in the magazine's offices. At the meeting Kusturica expressed willingness to drop the charges if Srbljanović issues a public apology, which Srbljanović refused. The next day at the first court date Srbljanović once again rejected the offer of a public apology. The court case thus continued with Kusturica's lawyer Branislav Tapušković presenting details of the film's financing sources, most of which were French production companies. On 11 December 2003, the municipal court ruled in Kusturica's favour, ordering Srbljanović to pay the damages as well as to cover the court costs.
Bosnian-American novelist Aleksandar Hemon criticized Underground in 2005, saying that it downplayed Serbian atrocities by "presenting the Balkan war as a product of collective, innate, savage madness."
The film has not been widely reviewed by English-language critics, though it has gained generally favorable reviews. On the Rotten Tomatoes website, it currently garners an 83% approval rating out of 18 reviews.
Variety's Deborah Young reviewed the film after seeing it at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, praising it as "a steamroller circus that leaves the viewer dazed and exhausted, but mightily impressed", adding that "if Fellini had shot a war movie, it might resemble Underground".
Janet Maslin of the New York Times praised the film whose "real heart is its devastating idea of a morning after: the moment when, after being in the grip of a political delusion lasting several decades, a man can emerge from a subterranean hiding place in his native Yugoslavia and be told that there is no Yugoslavia any more". While acknowledging that "the politics of Underground have been assailed and dissected by international audiences", she feels that "this debate is largely specious as there's no hidden agenda to this robust and not terribly subtle tale of duplicity with Mr. Kusturica's central idea being a daringly blunt representation of political chicanery that fools an entire society, and of the corruption that lets one man thrive at the expense of his dearest friend".
- The film won the "Palme d'Or" (Golden Palm) award at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, considered the festival's highest honor. It was director Emir Kusturica's second such award after When Father Was Away on Business, making Kusturica one of only seven filmmakers to receive two Golden Palms.
- 1997, the film won "Best Foreign Language Film" awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics, following its release in the United States.
- "The many lives of Emir Kusturica", International Herald Tribune, 11 May 2005
- Halpern, Dan (8 May 2005). "The (Mis)Directions of Emir Kusturica". The New York Times.
- Stanko Cerović. "Kusturica's Lies Awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes". The Bosnian Institute. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- Na svojoj strani;Vreme, 23 February 2012
- The betrayal of the scholars Alain Finkielkraut and Bernard Henry Lévy, two propagandists of the «clash of civilizations»;Voltaire Network, 18 May 2005
- Dispute Leads Bosnian to Quit Films;The New York Times, 5 December 1995
- Sarajevan's Journey From Cinema Hero to 'Traitor';Los Angeles Times, 6 October 1997
- Finding roots in a reel Balkan village;Los Angeles Times, 13 August 2007
- Le Point, Bloc Note of June 10, 1995 and of October 21, 1995
- Le Point, Bloc Note of November 4, 1995
- CINEMA DISPUTE;The New Yorker, 5 February 1996
- "Violence & the Left in Dark Times: A Debate" 36:45, Fora TV, 16 Sep 2008
- Umesto pomirenja - tužba;Glas javnosti, 14 September 2001
- Kusturica encore montré du doigt;allocine.fr, 27 September 2001
- Ko je (ne)moralan?;Blic, 14 September 2001
- Srbljanović kriva za klevetu;Večernje novosti, 28 December 2003
- Halpern, Dan (8 May 2005). "The (Mis)Directions of Emir Kusturica". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
- Young, Deborah (30 May 1995). "Underground". Variety.
- Maslin, Janet (12 October 1996). "From Former Yugoslavia, Revelry With Allegory". The New York Times.
- Thomas, Kevin (30 January 1998). "'Underground' Is Epic Tale of Troubled Land". Los Angeles Times.
- "Festival de Cannes: Underground". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-05.