The Underground Empire [Manuel del Negro, Italy, 2019]


Through stirring imagery and Paolo Franciosi’s poetic narration, director Manuel del Negro tells an epic tale of human progress and how it often is at odds with nature in The Underground Empire.


The film has a huge sense of scope, taking its audience on a journey from ancient forests to the bowels of the Earth itself. The imagery is both evocative and gorgeous, the cinematography and its use of colour being The Underground Empire’s most striking feature. From candlelight playing on the actor’s faces to the colours of the forest – the greens of the moss, the greys of the stone – popping in vibrant and memorable ways. All of this, as well as the rousing musical score, lends the film and its themes a sense of awe.


Thematically, The Underground Empire explores human progress and how humans and the natural world are both entwined with each other and yet also often diametrically opposed to one another on a fundamental level. The film suggests this has always been the case and always will be. It’s the sort of theme that could be applied to many things and with the topic of climate change looming large, it certainly provides food for thought.


The Underground Empire is a visually impressive short film for which the label “epic” feels, for once, well earned.

‘The Underground Empire’ was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.

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