Three must-see documentaries about life underground May 21, 2018

Have you ever wondered what is happening under our feet while we live? The following documentaries presented by Guidedoc disrupt all the hypotheses that we might come up with - even the most surreal ones - about the mysteries that lie underground. Let's see. 

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Normally we see the rooms that lie below the surface as protected spaces, away from the sight of others, normally designed to hide dark secrets. In “In The Basement”, directed by the Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidle, a genius of the grotesque, perfectly illustrates this conception of the subsoil as a universe where everything - we mean absolutely everything - is possible. A shooting club that works in a huge tunnel, a clandestine group of Nazi musicians or the room where a sadomasochistic couple overflows their pleasures, these small enclaves breathe under the earth and Seidle is skilled enough to sneak through the cracks to find them. Accustomed as we are to navigate the cinema of this “enfant terrible” of Austrian cinema, we could never differentiate which of these situations or characters belong to objective reality or which ones have been completely constructed by Seidle. The aesthetics of the staging of the film makes this reading even more ambiguous. Seidle frames the characters in fixed shots in which they remain motionless surrounded by baroque sets, thus constructing a visual narrative based on a series of live photographs, an inventory of how funny and yet how horrifying the private life underground can be.

 

 

But what happens when the surreal transcends towards the sidereal? Director Nicolas Steiner resorts to the juxtaposition between the bowels of civilization and the epidermis of the deserts to make an unforgettable poem about social marginalization. In “Above and Below”, Steiner tells three stories that run in parallel and only one of them occurs below the earth's surface. While Rick, Cindy and Lalo make of the sewers of Las Vegas their barricade against outside socialization, April, an ex-combatant in Iraq, finds in the red desert of Utah the escape she longs for by exploring its territory dressed in an astronaut costume. The triptych is completed by David, who strives to communicate with God with the objects that he has hand in hand, isolated in a refuge of the Californian desert. Despite these contrasting geographies, it is the loneliness and state of survival of our characters that makes this film an essay about the lack of horizon, where only self-confidence and imagination can illuminate a world that would otherwise be as dark as the most uninhabitable underground cave.

 

 

In our third and last film of this list we will go as deep as we can. But don't worry, your eyes will get used to the darkness. In “From the Depths” a documentary by Italian director Valentina Pedicini, we accompany a group of miners who have decided to take control of the last coal mine in Italy before it is closed by the authorities. Among these men there is only one woman, whose point of view serves us to understand what it is like to live in the depths of the earth, specifically half a kilometer from the surface. The closeness of the absorbing sounds that emanate from this cavern and a precious cinematography make us witness images that are difficult to describe on a sensory and emotional level. Halfway between the document of denunciation, a topographic thriller and an essay on darkness, “From The Depths” is undoubtedly an extraordinary film that only time will unveil its true value, just as the underground lava slowly emerges with its golden glow from the center of the Earth.

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