A dystopian science fiction film may not be everyone’s idea of a fun watch at the moment, considering we’re kind of living through one. Still, if you’re the type who loves this genre, can look past the present situation and get immersed in a different story, Undergods may be for you.
In a not-so-distant future, industry has taken over and modern civilisation is a decaying shell. Into this world Undergods weaves stories of individuals whose lives are falling apart, a product of an industrial nightmare. Some characters reoccur, but most play out their doomed lives in stories within stories.
Two strong points of the film are it’s visual style and it’s novel approach to narrative. The latter is simple and easy to grasp, yet presented in a way that draws you in to each story and effortlessly bridges to the next one. There are obvious touchstones here, with the major one being the writings of Franz Kafka. Films such as Brazil and Eraserhead took influence from Kafka too, and those films are echoed in the visual sensibility of Undergods.
Visually the movie is incredibly stylish, yet manages to create an atmosphere of foreboding dread. Decaying cities are captured with the fantastic eye of director Chino Moya, who also proves he can maintain the atmosphere and make the characters’ stories as interesting as his aesthetics. Slow, expertly photographed tracking shots and deep use of a bluish colour scheme shape a surreal vision.
Undergods has its faults: it is a bit depressing, and lacks the warmth of previous classics in the genre such as Blade Runner, which at least offered a little hope in its story. One scene features the most cringeworthy party karaoke scene I’ve seen in a while, but it’s definitely not played for laughs. Many of the characters lack depth of course, considering their limited screen time. However, as a peek into a richly designed cinematic world that carries a warning for us, it’s very timely.
Undergods screened at the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival and will receive a general release later this year