Undergods is an entrancing, immersive dystopia.
Undergods brings you into its “world” through the eyes of two post-apocalyptic scavengers, roaming a bleak and ashy wasteland in search of corpses to sell while they drink gasoline and swap strange tales through mouths of rotted teeth. Who are these people? Why do they do what they do? How did this “world” come about? None of these are questions Undergods is inclined to answer. The film’s primary concern is the creation of an immersive, uncomfortable, and pessimistically funny experience that captures the oppressive feeling of a dark, degraded dystopia whilst consciously avoiding a neat or cohesive narrative.
I put “world” in quotation marks because where and when Undergods is set is incredibly fluid. One world tells a story that pulls viewers into another which suddenly transitions into a previous world and so on in what I can only describe as a Russian doll structure. It is in moments like this, where it inexplicably throws a curveball of dystopian weirdness, that Undergods is at its most compelling.
This is when it feels like the film achieves what it is trying to achieve: an experience that evokes the cruel weirdness of a dystopian world without trapping that feeling in a conventional narrative. It’s impressive that Undergods manages to stretch this idea of minimal narrative and maximum experience across an hour and a half and yet never feels uncompelling. Despite characters and stories being passed around like a science-fiction basketball, I always yearned to see what bleak corner Undergods would turn down next, and that’s a testament to what this film achieves purely through the use of sound and image. An ambient, synth-heavy soundtrack guides you through exquisitely shot futuristic suburbs and crumbling wastelands, producing an entrancing effect that is not easy to shake post-viewing.
Part montage, part anthology, part music video, Undergods is a short-but-sweet fall through multiple rabbit holes that won’t disappoint fans of all things unusual, confusing and surreal.
That being said, those looking for a strong sense of narrative catharsis or a dystopia with heavy shovels of social commentary will be sorely underwhelmed. Undergods is trying to achieve something specific; the film wants you to feel its strong sense of mood without necessarily being able to pin down what it is you’re feeling and why. Meet Undergods here and you’re in for a uniquely strange audio-visual treat.
Undergods is showing at Glasgow Film Festival from 26 February.
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