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Review: Under the Volcano (2021)

Under the Volcano Review


At the end of SXSW Film Festival, some films end up leaving a deep mark on us. A mark that nostalgically remind us of how music is an inspiration that helps us escape our busy day-to-day lives. Under the Volcano, presented by Universal Pictures, is not a natural disaster blockbuster, but instead is a gentle and sweet documentary that pays homage to some of the most creative musical artists of the modern world and reveals exclusive images of their creative process while visiting the remote, paradise-like island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. From The Police to Elton John, we meet the artists that have inspired the people of Montserrat (and the whole world for that matter) and how this volcanic island influenced their creativity in writing some of their most iconic songs.

Under the Volcano is directed by Gracie Otto, who manages to come by some exclusive content from the times where The Beattles and Stevie Wonder were playing and singing in the rural bars of the island, and how the residents felt during this unusual affluence of music-related celebrities visiting their beautiful and exotic home. It’s definitely demanding work, because Under the Volcano can’t rely exclusively on archive footage and nostalgic feeling, but also needs to find the modern freshness new generations require to feel close to the theme and, most importantly, to the place where it all happened. The film could easily fall in a propaganda extended video, but Otto is so dedicated in presenting her arguments and the impact Montserrat had on the musicians, that it makes the viewer ultimately attached to it, in a cinematic letter to what can now be called “music’s paradise”. During the film, we not only feel inticed in singing all the classic songs from these amazing artists, we also become aware of how they connected during their stay, bringing us closer to their creative process. By letting the musicians speak for themselves and talking about their experiencies and how the island influenced some of their greatest hits, Under the Volcano becomes the essential work that will ultimately inspire artists all over the world to find their own voice and to seek a place where the energy it brings has an impact in their talent’s natural flow.

Films like Under the Volcano are precious, because they understand the way art is essential to the world and that every artist needs to have a place where they can distance themselves from their troubled city lives, and feel inspired to let their inner peace drive their words and their sounds. As a documentary, Under the Volcano is simple in its structure, but ultimately becomes endearing by combining the archive footage with recent interviews with some artists who were frequent visitors of Montserrat, and endorses the humbleness and hospitality of some Montserrat’s inhabitants who lived through those golden times. Connecting the viewer with the environment and the participants of this iconic artistic migration, fuels Under the Volcano with an excitement that will impel audiences from different generations to want to share this nostalgic adventure and to inspire artists all around the world to find their own place where they feel is their creative flow’s home.

Engaging, adorably nostalgic, Under the Volcano is the documentary that will put a smile on your face and will make you jump and hum to every song that it features, while reminding you that every song has a stage where it was born, and acts as a love letter to Montserrat and its magnetic, peaceful serenity. Even sitting on a dormant volcano, Montserrat will always be known for its explosion of talent and its spirit of celebrating art and humanity. Graceful and endearing, Under the Volcano will captive audiences around the world by displaying their favorite artists without dwelling in the already frequent backstage footage we are so accostumed to and by enlightening the world to where they got the energy to pursue and enrich their careers. It has an energy of its own and distances itself from the common approach to music-centered cinematic exercises, solidifying its core with the sweetest tunes that we all are familiar with.

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Title: Under the Volcano

Original Title: Under the Volcano

Director: Gracie Otto

Runtime: 90 min.

Trailer | Under the Volcano