A Serbian Film (Review)
A Serbian Film (2010)
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic
"It's like a cartoon for grownups"
That's a quote from one of the characters in A Serbian Film, which by now if you're a fan of the film festival circuit, you know about the reputation this film has received.
Was it a movie critiquing the Serbian government's brainwashing of ordinary citizens into committing atrocities during the war? Or is it a vile, disgusting piece of crap pretending to be art?
Honestly, I don't know. As I watched I tried to see if there was satire as we watch the de-evolution of our main character Milos. But viewing fucked up scene after fucked up scene, I was kind of shocked into a jaded submission of WTF. Something is being said about the Serbian's ravaged past but all that kept echoing was "NEWBORN PORN!"
That is one of the many fucked up things that happens in A Serbian Film.
Critics have either praised or been disgusted by the film and I now know why. Having heard of this film through the festival grapevine (and that it was being banned from film fests) I can honestly say it's a downright despicable film from the beginning and especially towards the end.
In the vain of Palumbo's Murder Set Pieces, Buttgereit's Nekromantik, Oldboy, August Underground and Hostel, the movie shocks and shocks until you vomit and then shocks some more. I of course have made it a point to see all the most fucked up movies and to be honest, yeah it's sickening but not as sickening as I thought it would be.
Could a commentary on Serbia's government and the lives of its citizens NOT be done in such a vile manor? Sure, but nobody would go see it. Only the art cinephiles would see a subtitled film portraying the atrocities of a small country in Eastern Europe.
So Srdjan Spasojevic and writer Aleksandar Radivojevic decided to go the exploitation/horror sub genre to make a point. Exploitation is now the new chic, the "It" genre, the rebooted sub genre that used to be the stepchild of the horror genre.
And that's why I think it's effective. Can anybody truly "like" a movie like this? Of course not. But in it's perverted, fucked up way, it was effective in doing the 3 things it set out to do.
- Shock the hell out of people
- Say something important
- Get people talking
Milos is a former porn star who is down on his luck financially. When he receives a call from his long-time movie actress partner, Layla, he welcomes her call. Apparently she's heard that a new film director wants to hire Milos to star in his "artistically-designed" porn film for a very generous price. He is easily lured form his semi-retirement by the lucrative offer, agreeing to meet the director in an isolated mansion.
As the filming progresses, Milo begins to suspect that the director's intentions may be darker than mere pornography. As the film begins to devolve into a horrifically violent production, Milos finds escape may not be an option
To tell you which scenes were most shocking is like telling you what part of the haunted house the scares are going to come from. If I just wrote down and described to you all the WTF moments, it wouldn't have the same impact as seeing it. So no spoilers here.
I've been reading the IMDB message boards and they're outright hilarious.
- "My son is 15 years old and wanted to see this film at a friends house. He can watch most horror films OK and enjoys them but I'm a bit worried about this one. Is it really that bad?"
- American Remake?
But I digress. The movie is indeed an extreme film that will jolt Joe Moviegoer and make even the most jaded viewer cringe. (hahaha pun intended). I'm adding fuel to the fire. So how does this controversial film accomplish what it set out to do?
What the shock?
The first 40 or so minutes is set up. We follow Milos, a now retired porn star with a wife and little boy. We can see he yearns slightly for his past sexcapades but his ultimate driving force is for his family. The set up is not without it's weird scenes as we see Milos's 5 yr old son watch his father's work via VHS (yes VHS!).
It's not until Milos agrees to star in Vukmir's "art" porn that our "artist of fuck" starts to wonder what he's gotten himself into. Soon he's being followed by bodyguards doubling as camera operators. Spasojevic litters the next 30 or so minutes with hard to stomach scenes ranging from violent BJs, To Catch a Predator innuendo and the kicker of it all "newborn porn". I'm going to leave that last bit alone. It's enough to make me cringe all over again.
The film is no holds barred when it comes to sex. Bordering on porn, it's full frontal with all its nudity and its simulated sex scenes. There isn't any soft music with rose petals here dude. It's grimy, filthy, bloody violent sexual insanity. All of it contained in a feverish frenzy of nightmares and reality mixed in.
Slowly Milos is trapped on an endless loop of depravity where he loses himself. Discovering what's been done to him, he goes all vengeance served cold but it's far to late. When we get to the end, the climax is reprehensible and the twists are revealed and the ultimate WTF moment is shown to our now raped retinas.
The movie does a decent job of slowly burning the shock into our minds. The first scenes Milos has to "film" are tame in the beginning but become more fucked up as we go along. By the time we see the reveal of everything that has happened, you are tolerable enough to withstand the impact (well at least I was).
Yes the movie shocks and awes and punches you in the balls with a steel toed boot. I'll admit, it does everything as advertised.
So say something important
If I really think about it hard enough, yeah there is a slight political message in the film. Milos, a common man is seduced into making an art house porn film (if there is such a thing which is an argument in itself). Slowly, he is turned into a raving sexual lunatic made to do the most deplorable acts by the director.
If the message by Srdjan Spasojevic and Aleksandar Radivojevic is to say that ordinary men were tricked by the Serbian government to kill and commit unspeakable atrocities during the Yugoslavian war and they have still not recovered, it's definitely within the context of the film.
Sex and violence are almost interchangeable within the world of film these days. If this movie had been about an ex military sniper who is lured back to kill again, we would not even give this type of movie a second guess. Say this sniper killed not just men but women and kids, we'd be aghast but not completely shocked. But A Serbian Film substitutes sex for violence and somehow it's more sickening.
Sex and violence go hand in hand and the filmmakers know this. They're aware of how the old 70s American grindhouse movie would justify rape with revenge. Do they do this effectively? Like a punch in the face, yeah they do.
Porn is the cinematic equivalent of an action themed blood soaked war film. Is seeing rape depicted on scene far worse than seeing a man shot point blank in the head? Aren't these similar in fuckedupness? Both are acts of violence yet somehow one is worst than another?
Americans don't really know about what goes on outside our borders. I only recently understood the Yugoslavian war through a ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic. If somehow the director and writer wanted to make a statement about their country's plight to me, the average American cinephile, they picked the genre with the most impact.
Hell, I can't resist a exploitation movie.
Damn, now I'm talking about this
So with my positive review, I've chosen the side which believes the movie has a point to prove. Can it be said that other shocking films have one? The fact that A Serbian Film can say something says a lot about this most messed up movie.
Sometimes, a food doesn't look all too good. It also smells and looks peculiar. But when you bite into it, it taste fuckin awesome.
I'm not saying I'm going to eat A Serbian Film all the time, but I'd say for the adventurous and probably jaded viewers out there, it's a good solid snack. There aren't many movies out there that take chances that want to shock the shit out of people. Most of the ones have come overseas which includes Martyrs, Inside and Them. These films go over the proverbial edge to make a point. They try to drop an ACME anvil over your head to make a statement.
I can say adamantly A Serbian Film clearly does that.
Tons of full frontal nudity by hot women
BBA trifecta (boobs, bush and ass)
Full frontal male nudity
Beheaded head splatter
Gun shot trauma
Tons of carnage
The climactic ending
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
The film has made it's way through a bunch of film festivals. Supposedly in the UK, it's been cut by 3 minutes.
Should you see it?
Yeah why the fuck not? It's not everyday you see a movie which is a total mindfuck. I make it my mission to challenge myself by viewing movies that want to challenge the way I think about the world and also to challenge my psyche and my senses. Plain and simple, A Serbian Film does both.
Check out the trailer below!