The Film: A Serbian Film (Buy it from CHUD!)
The Principles: Srđan Spasojević (director), Srđan Todorović, Jelena Gavrilović, Slobodan Beštić, Katarina Žutić, Anđela Nenadović, Luka Mijatović
The Premise: Miloš (Srđan Todorović ) is a retired porn star living the straight life with his beautiful wife Marija (Jelena Gavrilović) and young son Petar when he meets Vukmir, an independent filmmaker offering him the role of a lifetime. Out of boredom and in an effort to sercure his family’s financial future, Miloš comes out of retirement to star in Vukmir’s avant-garde project. But it’s not long before Miloš realizes he’s entered a world where extreme violence and sexual depravity go hand-in-hand. Drugged into an animalistic haze, Miloš’ uber-cock becomes a weapon in Vukmir’s sadistic movie – a weapon that threatens everything Miloš holds dear.
Is It Good: That’s a loaded question, short answer being not really. A Serbian Film is a technically competent film that uses sexuality and violence in ways that will no doubt shock you, but it’s an empty experience that thinks it has more to say than it truly does. When viewed under socio-economic and political lenses, the film’s hollow nature becomes readily apparent. Srđan Spasojević is attempting to contextualize the disconnect between the safeness of Serbian films with the tense nature of Serbian reality. He might be on to something, but the message gets lost in a drugged-out, explicit menagerie of skull-fucking, baby-fucking, family-fucking, all manners of fucking really. These moments shock, but they also overtake the film’s supposed intention.
As endurance cinema however, A Serbian Film offers viewers a litmus test of one’s own tolerance. I experienced a few brief moments of discomfort – it’s an unsettling if not altogether shocking piece. But the fantastical brutality is exactly that: fantasy. The most uncomfortable scene occurred for me in the final moments of the film, and it’s heartbreaking to watch this broken family come to grips with Miloš’ actions in the film. A choice is made, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t haunt me.
So, as a straight narrative with incendiary imagery, A Serbian Film is a challenging piece of cinema. As an actual film with thought-provoking ideas that go nowhere quickly, it’s less than spectacular.
Is It Worth A Look: How okay are you with the things mentioned above? I can watch anything so long as I know it’s fantasy, and yet ironically I still manage to get weak in the knees if I see surgery or those heinous Sarah McLachlin ASPCA commercials as I’m channel surfing. Point is: none of what happens in A Serbian Film is real (except when Miloš hangs dong, that’s all too real I’m afraid). Bracing yourself for seeing some shit beforehand will go a long way regarding whether or not you can handle A Serbian Film. But I’ve read all manner of reviews that have called it relatively tame (not true) to the most brutal work ever committed to celluloid (very not true). So it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Random Anecdotes: People in Norway are SOL, the film got banned after two months of sales for violating laws against violence and the sexual depiction of children (where there’s a lot of the former, the latter is thankfully entirely implied). The cut available in the United States is missing a few key frames that might leave some people guessing what just occurred. I’ll say this, if you’ve been paying attention then you should have no problem connecting the disturbing dots.
Cinematic Soulmates: Hostel, Hostel Part II, Audition, The Game, Cannibal Holocaust, Deep Throat