A Serbian Film

Year:  2010
Director:  Srdjan Spasojevic
Cast:  Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Katarina Zutic

Milos, an aging male porn star struggling to support his family receives a proposition from a Serbian filmmaker to revive his career by making the ultimate "pornographic art film."   In need of the money, Milos agrees, having no idea that the filmmaker is insane and hellbent on creating a snuff film.  Slowly, he convinces, and ultimately forces, Milos to participate in some of the most depraved, controversial acts ever to be shown in a film.

Vile.  Repulsive. Despicable. Repugnant  Evil.  All of these adjectives have been used to describe A Serbian Film, perhaps one of the most controversial, divisive films of the last few decades.  And while it is extremely easy to dismiss it as such simply disgusting garbage because it pushes the boundaries of taste unlike any film before it by depicting extremely taboo acts, such as infant rape, forced incest, and necrophilia, there is a substance to the film that is hard to ignore.  The first thing that should be mentioned is that if any of the aforementioned scenarios disgust you to the point of not being able to formulate an objective opinion of the film, do not watch it.  It's graphic and brutal; you've been warned.  But what sets A Serbian Film apart from other films that have been accused of existing solely for shock value, such as August Underground and Grotesque, is that there is plot replete with conflicted characters and motivations; it is not just a series of brutal scenes.  The film begins with the young son of the antagonist watching one of his father's old pornographic videos.  His mother and father catch him and like any parent would do, they explain to him that what he was was meant from grown ups and the viewer senses the close relationship the three of them share.  It is revealed that since Milos, the father, left the porn industry, the family has been strapped for cash.  The wife is extremely supportive of her husband's career and when the proposition for him to make the "art porn" arises, she urges him to consider the offer.  The acting is exquisite by all involved and the cinematography and direction is highly effective.  The film possesses the same dark, gritty tone that both Se7en and 8mm so successfully created.  This is quality, careful filmmaking, which is easy to forget once the graphic depictions of violence are presented.  The build up to these scenes is calculated and effective, as for each scene Milos films for the movie asks him to step deeper and deeper beyond the realm of anything imaginable by a sane and rational human being.   He doesn't oblige willingly and actor Todorovic does an amazing job and displaying Milos' conflict and disgust.  It's easy to hate him because he ultimately does participate, but the viewer can also sympathize with him because we see how he is being manipulated and how his family is being used as pawns against him.  As the film rails towards its explosive, sickening, disheartening climax, one does get a sense that the filmmakers were trying to stage the most repulsive situations imaginable to garner the controversy.  It certainly had to be at the forefront of their minds that depicting the rape of a newborn baby would not go unnoticed.  But this is where the struggle comes in because the film goes far beyond any level of taste or appropriateness and is extremely vile at times.  But, and this is the difficult part, it's an interesting, extremely well made film that captures the viewer's attention from the get go.  Certainly child rape is nothing to celebrate or glorify and that is NOT my intent is giving this film a positive review.  I was repulsed and disgusted by the final minutes of this film, but I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  It possesses a power and message that goes far beyond the depiction and depravity shown.  It's not just the brutal violence that is disturbing and memorable, but the characters and their longing for hope and a better life at almost any extent; the message that unhappiness with what you have can have dire consequences.  And there is a sense, contradictory or not, that director Spasojevic wasn't celebrated pornography and violence as much as he was condemning it.  The film is powerful and thought provoking, that can't be denied and it certainly bests almost any horror film that has been released in theaters for the last few years in accomplishing its goal.

So, to the horror of many who find the subject matter of this film enough to condemn it, I am giving it a positive grade.  This does not mean I enjoy or support any of the actions depicted in the film, but is a reflection of the quality and impact of the film.  AGAIN: Do NOT watch this filming knowing what is in it will disturb you and then cry about how repulsive and despicable it is.  However, if you can be objective, you will be subjected to a horror film unlike any other in quite a long time; it will stick with you, give you nightmares, get you talking and reflecting, and even scare the crap out of you.   And isn't that what a horror film is supposed to do?

Fright Meter Grade:

1 comment:

  1. Afraid I must disagree with this review almost entirely. I truly believe that this movie was made SOLELY for shock value. I don't believe that a movie that stays with you is profound in any way, I believe it POISONS the mind. That is what this movie did for me, this movie's content (I use that word deliberately since SCENE would give it too much credit), stays with you because it literally causes trauma, that's not something I need. As far as I'm concerned this movie should never have seen the light of day. As for it's artistic value, yes, it was very well shot, very well put together as a film....that's where the similarities to a film end to me. Just mho.