WARNING: There is probably no way to discuss one of the strongest and most controversial films of recent years without mildly offending the more innocent readers so if you like to see things around you surrounded by a rosy hue then please stop reading now. Seriously.
A Serbian Film starts with ex-porn star Milos finding his young son watching one of his past “glories” and, while the opening moments have some graphic stuff in there, this mild discomfort is absolutely nothing compared to what’s about to come. It appears that Milos is not fully retired. Whenever he’s desperate enough for cash he will do some work for a quick payday though it is nothing compared to the polished, professional productions he used to be involved with. So he’s intrigued when a former colleague introduces him to Vukmir, a man who wants to make an adult movie that could also be viewed as a true piece of art. The unorthodox way of making this movie involves loosely guiding Milos towards certain situations and telling him through an earpiece when he should be unveiling his prize asset. With things becoming increasingly twisted and confusing for Milos, it’s not long until he begins to question exactly just what he’s got himself involved in. But will he be allowed to walk away from a twisted artist’s overwhelming ambition?
What you’ll find in a lot of online discussion about A Serbian Film is mention of one or two instantly notorious scenes. I won’t go into detail here, trying not to spoil things for anyone who gets to see the movie, but I will say that they’re instantly notorious for good reason. What you should also know is that they’re not the only moments that will make your stomach churn.
However, what I have often seen missed from many reviews of A Serbian Film is just how technically good it is. The effects are all horribly realistic, the acting is superb (with Srdjan Todorovic doing especially well, given the fact that almost every scene revolves around his increasingly disorientated character, but there are other great turns from Sergej Trifunovi?, Jelena Gavrilovic. Katarina Zutic and Slobodan Bešti? ) and the screenplay is actually a very good piece of work. Director Srdjan Spasojevic (working from a screenplay co-written by himself and Aleksandar Radivojevic) makes this into something much more than just a few shock moments thrown into a lacklustre film, he makes it intelligent, challenging and genuinely unforgettable, for better or worse. By starting with the imagery of the adult movie that we see, audiences are gradually taken to a strangely idyllic and adult place where standard sexual tastes and appetites are things not to be hidden away and embarrassed by but rather savoured and openly admitted to. The downward turn of events afterwards could, arguably, be construed as an analogy for the effects of strict repression and the dangers of it while also making the point that complete freedom is never necessarily a good thing either.
In a way, A Serbian Film feels very much like a sexually-orientated companion piece to Seven. It’s even got a similar, pounding, gritty soundtrack at times. As that movie began with a man picking victims for reasons we could almost see justified (albeit with a large amount of guilt contained in those fleeting thoughts) so this one begins with moments that we can, if totally honest, vicariously enjoy. This only increases our distress as the journey turns darker and more insane and the final half hour builds with a dread-filled inevitability to a climax that packs one hell of a punch and will be remembered long after the credits have rolled (once again . . . . like Fincher’s dark thriller). The director himself has said that the movie is a statement regarding the molestation of the Serbian people by its government and how those with great power can hypnotise others into doing things they don’t want to do. A valid point or an excuse for the barrage of audio/visual nastiness the movie provides? You decide.
No doubt a controversy will rage for some time over this movie. Who would create such a film? Should it even be allowed a release? Who the hell would watch such a thing? Well, in my opinion, this is most definitely an adult film BY adults and FOR adults that contains a lot of intelligence amidst the big shocks.
DIRECTOR: SRDJAN SPASOJEVIC
CAST: SRDJAN TODOROVIC, SERGEJ TRIFUNOVIC,
JELENA GAVRILOVIC, KATARINA ZUTIC, SLOBODAN BESTIC
RUNTIME: 104 MINS APPROX