Sottoterra or Under the Ground is a fairytale-like story about a mysterious and dangerous hole that the little girl Lisa (Lisa Florena) stumbles upon while playing one day. Even though the girl is warned by her mother that the hole is dangerous and she should not come close to it under any circumstances, her curiosity is insatiable and she can’t ignore it. So, when one day she and a friend Michael (Orlando Mochi) stay alone in the house, she dares him to enter it and see what it is all about.
Michael does, but he gets frightened and Lisa helps him get out of it. Even though they continue playing throughout the day, he gets guarded and won’t talk about what he saw that got him so scared that he gets nightmares. The movie ends on the mysterious note – Michael leaves with his parents without saying a word about his experience and Lisa goes to the hole herself to find it filled in with big stones. The depths remain a riddle.
The atmosphere of the movie is completely fairy-tale like. The photography is startling, breath-taking and at times fantastic. The fairy-tale mood is also helped by the music which creates the feeling of the classic animated movies for children. Both the outside and the indoor shots play into this fairytale fantasy – the nature is picturesque, and at moments, ethereal and the labyrinthine corridors and rooms of the house bring to mind Bluebeard and his famous castle. Every part of the movie was fitted into the fairytale mold with care and precision.
The only thing that jumps out a bit at the viewer is the acting. The problem with children actors is that sometimes they can come off as stiff and unemotional – small children are usually not very good at faking emotions. They can be told what to do, and they will do it with more or less success. The same happened in this movie. Orlando, who played Michael, is a bit older, so he seems more natural and a bit better than Lisa. Still, there are a couple of scenes of playtime and one of a nightmare which are so obviously rehearsed and scripted. Lisa looks like she stepped out of some fairytale, especially her big green curious eyes, but she is very, very young.
All in all, Sottoterra is an interesting, maybe at times a bit too slow and stiff modern fairytale short film.