Quint at SXSW says people have been hung for crimes against humanity less offensive than A SERBIAN FILM!
Published at: March 16, 2010, 4:50 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another review from South By Southwest and this one is a doozy.
There came a moment a little more than half-way through A SERBIAN FILM where my jaw was literally hanging open. I had always assumed that was a figure of speech, an exaggeration of the moment of shock and sometimes I’ve feigned it when giving my friends a look during a particularly fucked up moment in a movie (which usually tend to be Japanese), but this time I realized that does happen in real life.
This moment I cannot reveal. It’s not that I don’t want to reveal a big spoiler in case you see the movie… there is a little bit of that, but the main reason is that taken out of context it will sound like shock for the sake of shock, something so offensive that it will probably make you write the movie off sight unseen.
I’m a pretty open audience member. I’ve seen some horrible shit… centipedes crawling out of an Asian lady’s vagina, animal endangerment and mutilation (thanks again to the crazy Asians and a special nod to the Italians), people taking a shit, people eating shit, people becoming shit, cocks being split, cocks being removed, cocks being jerked off until an orgasm of blood erupts from the head… There’s a lot of weird shit out there and I’ve seen much of it, usually at the Alamo Drafthouse.
I’m not saying A SERBIAN FILM takes the cake for most offensive, but I can say without any exaggeration that this film was the first in a long, long time to make me feel genuinely shocked at what I was seeing. I mean deeply disturbed kind of shock.
A SERBIAN FILM is an ugly film, not in technical quality (it’s actually quite professionally done), but in its tone and feel much the same way Paul Schrader’s films are ugly films. It’s a film that slaps you across the face and dares you to stick with it and if you do you’re either going to be fuming mad at the filmmakers for putting you through all that shit or you’re going to be moved.
Gaspar Noe, Lars Von Trier, Jon Waters and David Lynch have all made films like that and now Srdjan Spasojevic (director) and Aleksandar Radivojevic (co-writer) have joined those ranks with this allegorical tale of the state of politics and living conditions in Serbia.
Basically we follow a famous porn actor (played by Srdjan Todorovic, the Serbian Kevin Bacon according to writer Radivojevic at the Q&A) who has quit the business, taking bit roles when his family needs money. But basically he’s a family man, raising an adorable little boy with his incredibly understanding and beautiful wife.
Enter Sergej Trifunovic’s Vukmir, a charming artist in a suit and fancy house that has more money than God, apparently. He’s eccentric, but an artist and big fan of Todorovic’s Milos. Vukmir believes that pornography is art and wants to prove it by making a film with Milos and his famous ability to will an erection with zero stimulation.
Going into the movie the buzz was that this was a movie that Alamo founder Tim League described as one of the most fucked up movies he’s ever seen, so naturally I knew Vukmir wasn’t up to any good, but even with that expectation I wasn’t prepared for what happened when Milos signed on the dotted line.
There’s a little bit of Fincher’s The Game in this movie as the world starts to unravel around this guy, but unlike The Game there’s no big twist that lets us sigh with relief. Instead the movie hits us with escalating horrors that reach a boiling point at a certain point, culminating in what’s essentially a giant knife being plunged into the audience’s heart… then the movie fades back up and twists the knife one last time before going to credits.
A SERBIAN FILM isn’t torture porn, it’s not exploitation, but I’m sure it’s going to receive those labels. I’ve already heard comparisons to a piece of trash called Murder Set Pieces, which is absolutely unfair. I sat through that horrendous film and it’s miles apart from Serbian Film, which, at the end of the day, is a big proclamation about life in Serbia and how victims are controlled like puppets via their very own victimizations.
Murder Set Pieces is offensive for the sake of being offensive and is sold that way. It’s hollow, the kind of film anybody who rails against horror as a genre thinks every horror movie is.
Love it or hate it, A SERBIAN FILM is saying a lot and is extremely intelligently executed. It’s the kind of movie that grabs you by the collar and drags you through shit you’d rather not. It doesn’t allow you to be passive. You’re involved, like it or not, which is going to cause people to bail and I can’t blame them. It’s tough.
The allegory is there, but not highlighted and because it’s an Eastern European political allegory not many in the US will understand it even if they sense a deeper meaning. I know I didn’t fully grasp the concepts behind the movie… hell, I still don’t even after a very illuminating and passionate Q&A with the writers and director.
All the performances are top notch, the writing is multi-layered and suspenseful, the cinematography (on the Red camera) was extremely professional and the direction was assured, which all helped to give credence to the message behind the offensive imagery.
This film can and probably will cause protests and righteous indignation. But I can tell you this: you might be offended by this movie, but you will not be bored by it. It crosses the line like it wasn’t even there, then goes across another line that you didn’t know existed before coming to a close. You might not trust you’re in the sanest of hands and you’d probably be right, but if you do end up seeing the film it will have an impact on you. It will challenge you, it might enlighten you, or it’ll just piss you right the fuck off.
I’ve embedded the absolutely NSFW trailer below that might give you a little of the insane taste of the film. Consider yourself warned.
I seriously doubt this film will see any kind of major theatrical release, but if SALO ended up a Criterion release who knows where this film will end up? If you’re at SXSW the flick screens one more time tonight.
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