Friday, 26 February 2021

UNDERGODS - Glasgow Film Festival review

Director Chino Moya's debut feature film offers a nightmarish vision of a world fallen to ruin. Told via loosely connected stories that look at various ideals of family life, Undergods is a harsh warning of how close our fragile society and a collapse into a heartless dystopia really are.

A husband concerned that his wife is having an affair with the mysterious stranger from the 11th floor; a prisoner free to return home from the Orwellian gulag he's been captive in for fifteen years; a father telling a bedtime story of industrial fraud and kidnap to his young daughter. What do these things have in common? Well, this film, obviously. Sharing tonal similarities with last year's Vivarium but with a much grander canvas, every segment of Undergods connects in some way to the idea of family - marital paranoia, strained loyalties, bitter resentments, a father expressing his love - in this debut film from writer/director Chino Moya. 

Hitherto a music video director for the likes of St. Vincent, Marina and the Diamonds and Years & Years, it's clear that Moya is something of a (gulp) visionary director, crafting a world of harsh, brutalist tower blocks both new and in ruin, filled with characters you wouldn't stomach spending more than the allotted time with. The cast includes a number of (to be polite) "interesting" British faces, such as Kate Dickie, Ned Dennehy, Tim Plester and Burn Gorman, all playing various socially inert degenerates, but the only characters who appear throughout are Johann Myers and Géza Röhrig's K & Z who drive around their barren, industrial wasteland looking for victims they can sell off to the local factory, but hey, at least they have fun while they're doing it. For all that Undergods plunges into the depths of human misery, there's some comic moments too, albeit springing up from a dark place.

The structure, or lack thereof, may be too baffling for your average audience (there's no 'A' story, no 'B' story, just a collection of scenes that flow into one another, connected by little more than a single character or even a single frame), but for sci-fi fans willing - and hoping - to have their worldview stretched with some gorgeous, despairingly bleak imagery, Undergods delivers the goods.

Verdict

3.5/5

Undergods is screening as part of the Glasgow Film Festival between 26th February and 1st March.

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