A lot have been said about Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film since its release in 2010. It had a terrific run in cult film festivals, some have called it a pinnacle in horror cinema, others have been genuinely offended by it and called it the most vile thing that was every put on film. That’s enough for me to be curious and to want to have my own opinion on this polarizing piece of extreme cinema.
I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I thought it would be one of those grindhouse flicks, where kids have fun with latex and corn syrup in front of a camera. Not violent as much as shocking. I was wrong. A Serbian Film is a project with a lot of budget behind (which is surprising, due to its extreme nature) and a craftsman minutiae has been put in polishing every detail, making it a visually beautiful and highly disturbing viewing experience.
For example, it has a plot and it’s better than your average horror movie. Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) is a retired porn star on a very thin pension, worrying about the future for his wife and son. One of his old co-workers comes in with a mysterious proposition to shoot one last “art porno”, destined for a very exclusive clientele.
Enters the demented director Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) who lives in a secluded mansion, who hands Milos a contract he cannot refuse. He starts shooting the most deranged porno movie in the history of mankind (well, I hope it is). Milos is getting blow jobs while images of a little girl are playing in the background, getting blow jobs from beat up women, all sorts of blow jobs. When he gets fed up with it, director Vukmir brings him back for the real work, using a little Spanish fly (not a little). Hilarity ensues.
Yes, this is an extreme movie. There is hardcore sexuality depicted and by hardcore, I mean not always fun. A Serbian Film is not a wall of violence and toilet humor, like some critics would like you to believe. Srdjan Spasojevic keeps saying his movie is a metaphor for the horrors Serbia went through during the last twenty years and despite being pretty blunt, I agree. This is an actual metaphor.
Milos is visibly not happy with his condition and yet, he took all the easy choices, like a mindless soldier would. He goes where money and comfort is, all the time, even if it involves doing degrading things. He’s running the circle of self-abuse. He’s endangering the small world he makes for himself because he doesn’t have the courage to step out into a world he doesn’t know. So he’s turned into a cog of the complex machine of a dying economy. It might sound abstract, but watch the movie and read it again. I think it makes sense.
As far as the showstopper scene everybody talks about (I’m not going to spoil it, you gorehounds would hate me for it), it is vile. Perhaps the vilest thing you can put on film. But the way Srdjan Spasojevic presents it is very clever. He puts perspective on such monstrous act and puts the horrible doubt in your mind that this act might be REALLY committed on film in these countries and shows it in all its horror, focusing on the audio and the implied, rather than on shock tactics.
Some of you might wince, but I have seen worse than A Serbian Film, in terms of extreme movies. The Guinea Pig series from Japan and particularly Flower Of Flesh And Blood makes A Serbian Film look like minor leagues in terms of violence. But the point of A Serbian Film isn’t to shock you. It’s to drive you down to the rotten heart of a country with no future and make you witness the carnage that those with no hope and no desire to make life better for themselves.
I am aware this is farfetched, but this is as political as extreme cinema can get. Love it or hate it, A Serbian Film is a beautiful movie that packs a punch and dares you to watch it.
Its violence is never boring
Abandon all morality, ye who enters here
Unpleasant sexuality (like, very)
Some bizarre sense of humor.