Notes from Underground

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella Notes from the Underground starts: ‘I am sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased.’ It’s with these words that Gary Walkow stars his film adaptation of this book. With such disturbing words, you’d think the film would still have some of the power that the book did, but it doesn’t.

The poster to the right, is not the actual movie poster, the real one is impossible to find, as far as I can tell, this movie was only screened at Toronto International Film Festival, and Sundance in 1998 before it’s DVD release. The film stars Henry Czerny as The Underground Man. He keeps an angry video diary to record his angry rants about the failures in his life. It’s unclear in the film, but the novel is one of the most famous examples of an ‘unreliable narrator.’ This plot device is rarely seen, if ever, in film, and it didn’t go over so well here. Underground Man tells us the stories of meeting up with college buddies that are condescending, and cruel in their interactions with him. He talks of an oddly quiet, and disarming hooker (Sheryl Lee) whom he sleeps with, and then preaches to about the disgusting ways of her life. He invites her to live with him, which she does. Underground Man ends up raping her, which he simple refers to calmly, as an ‘outburst of passion.’

I found the film to be much like Dostoevsky’s novel: a little dry, more boring than it was disturbing. It’s supposed to be the tale of one man’s quiet descent into madness as he loses touch with reality, but mostly we just watch Czerny yell at himself…and at the camera recording all of this. John Favreau is annoying as hell as one of the college buddies (perhaps this was the point, but Favreau is annoying in everything he does). Seth Green had two lines in the film, which he spoke with an Australian(?) accent. The whole thing was more confusing than anything else. Skip this one.

★☆☆☆

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One Response to “Notes from Underground”
  1. ben says:

    Note taken. John Favreau is annoying in everything except Swingers. I’ll send in a guest review on that movie.

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