Reviews

A Serbian Film

2

Heavily and somewhat unfairly censored Serbian horror finally makes it to some British screens...

A Serbian Film review

Long in tooth and trouser departments, porn legend Milos (srdan todorovic) is lured out of retirement when a mysterious businessman gives his ego a stroke and splashes the cash.

Only Milos doesn’t know what he’s signing up for.

Told he’s about to front an “artistic statement”, he’s collected by granite-faced goons in black glasses and blacked-out limos and driven to set in deafening silence…

Chances are you already know more about Milos’ fate than he does. A Serbian Film is, after all, this year’s red-flag title, pulled from horror festival FrightFest when the BBFC requested three mins, 48 secs of cuts (compared to the 17 seconds snipped from the gruelling, tonally suspect I Spit On Your Grave remake).

Of course, Srdan Spasojevic’s adult thriller was always going to set the classifiers’ alarm bells clanging, offering as it does conflated sex and violence, children in a sexual environment, and – now fully excised – the instantly infamous “newborn porn” sequence.

None of which is half as distressing as it sounds; scenes are carefully blocked to avoid graphic gore, villains are pantomimic and the tone is closer to Hammer, Dr. Phibes and Hostel 2 than Last House On The Left, Irreversible or, an obvious influence, Pasolini’s Salò.

More camp than corrosive, A Serbian Film is hard to take seriously. Factor in the propulsive plotting and too-sleek direction and it’s clear a better title would have been A Serbian Movie.

Not that there isn’t serious intent. Spasojevic is here fashioning an allegory for Serbia’s war-torn plight, with the violence and violation representing, albeit opaquely, the lies, corruption and brutality foisted upon a people.

But the aesthetic is glossy, the content hysterical, and events hurtle towards a cataclysmic finale that would devastate were it not so predictable, overwrought and crushingly symbolic.

Big ideas, big opportunity lost, big overreaction by the BBFC. Shame.

Verdict:

Heavily censored version of a film that was slightly silly and none-too-distressing to begin with. Works best as a reflection on modernday porn’s obsession with masochism and humiliation.  

Film Details

  • 18
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: December 10th 2010
  • Genre

User Reviews

    • bernardshakey

      Dec 11th 2010, 2:18

      I am considering watching this film in the same way I was considering watching Irreversible (morbid curiosity), which has stayed with me til this day. For those who have seen it can they say it has any artistic merit or is it just shock for the sake of it? As much as I have read about the directors intention of it being a metaphor the the plight of Serbian people I can't help thinking it seems like just an excuse to push the boundaries of what has been shown on film. I'm not judging a film I haven't seen, just curious of what people think...

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    • thejonner

      Dec 11th 2010, 10:25

      Watching an uncut version, I got to the rape of the baby before leaving. Before becoming a father, I may have been able to handle it, but as a father, it was a step too far for me. I didn't think I had a limit as regards on screen (and definitely fictional) depictions of anything, but I've found that I do. I found it morally repugnant and inexcusable. That said, I'm not advocating the censoring of this film, more that I'm expressing my right to watch and then stop watching what I consider to be unacceptable. I wouldn't advise any friends or family to watch it - quite the opposite - but it's up to me - and anyone else - to make my mind up as an adult as to what I watch. (Don't) Enjoy...

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    • gonzoBen

      Dec 11th 2010, 18:19

      @thejonner Well articulated sir. Makes a change for a comment thread.

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    • BruceShark

      Dec 12th 2010, 16:40

      1

      This film has no redeeming features what so ever. The director can talk and talk and talk about it's meaning and that it's a metaphor for the plight of Serbia. It's not. It's just shock tactic torture porn. Now I'm not saying I hate torture porn, infact i don't really like that term to describe films. But I do understand which type of films it's referring to and this is one of those films. It's trying to trade on some sort of meaning and there isn't any. As for the BBFC cuts. I did have the good fortune, or bad, of catching a uncut viewing. The infamous scene that is missing from the cinema release, all I can say about that is I'm surprised anyone in their sane mind would even consider directing a scene like this. Tough subjects should be covered in film, but they should be covered in an adult way. Just because we know these things happen, does that mean we should see them. It's a sad case of affairs when this sort of imagery is used simple for shock value. I'm not a fan of censorship. Most of the films that were/are banned and cut usually don't have anything, that I believe, that warrant this action. But in this case the BBFC have got it bang on. There are lines in the sand that should never be crossed, and depicting the rape of a baby is one of them. And worse still is that the director believes there's meaning to it.

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    • nemamime

      Feb 20th 2011, 1:38

      2

      This write-up contains dialogue from the movie so may be considered a spoiler . I am tempted to interject my own opinions but who cares what I think anyway . I have the movie as a 5/10 but that is just a neutral number . My real score might be a 0 or it might be a 10 ; I am not going to tell you what it is . I am not going to comment on whether the movie is good or bad , whether it is appropriate viewing or not . I am going to outline for you what the movie is about but be warned that the movie is making some very specific political statements and many of those statements would not be received so well by a western audience . And I am not saying that I agree with any of them ; I am just going to tell you what they are . Spasojevic himself would never spell this out for reasons that will soon become obvious . Most of the dialogue in the movie is making reference to current issues being discussed in Serbia . In order to understand those references , you have to pay very close attention to the dialogue and have a good understanding of the political and socio-economic situation in Serbia . As you may know the current government in Serbia is pro-western and was installed about 10 years ago . Currently in Serbia there is great discontent with this government but neither have they seen other alternatives so every election is pretty much deadlocked with many parties joining each other in order to get enough votes . Let's start with the contract at the beginning of the film . Milos says "but i don't know what I am signing" . Vukmir says "You are not supposed to know. If you know you will not be so good." The contract represents the deal made with the western powers , at that time 10 years ago , in exchange for promises of a better life , a better standard of living . When Vukmir says "You are not supposed to know. If you know you will not be so good." the meaning is "if you knew , you would not be obedient to your western masters." Here Vukmir represents the western powers , the EU , the USA , the architects , the "Directors" , of the conflict in the former yugoslavia with the goal of economic exploitation of the region. This is not a viewpoint exclusive to Spasojevic .See for example the documentary "Weight of Chains." Milos represents the Serbian government . Vukmir : "There is a serious script . We know it , you don't" . i.e. the west's actions are not just an accident but a carefully planned script . "Only filmed here , but for the foreign market." is referencing that the Serbs are economic slaves of the western powers . For example , Serbian industry and assets are being sold off to foreign investors and corporations , in essence making Serbs employees of foreign corporations . More about this can be read here : http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15849 Vukmir says "you could always make your d*** stand up like a c*** at dawn" . This is making fun of all the sucking up to the west that the Serbian government is doing . Laylah says to Milos , "The problem with that pension is that it's not lifelong. How much do you have stashed?" . This is referring to mundane issues about low pensions and how the privileged have good pensions . The white rabbit : this is just saying that the promises made to the Serbian government by the west is a fantasy , a fake . When the guy puts the rabbit to his crotch , the director is telling you what he thinks of those promises . The thing about how Milos looks Swedish : This is trying to say that the Serbian government is "not one of us , they are foreigners , in cahoots with foreign governments" Vukmir says "Right hand is the sex center in any man . It's a direct line between your brain and c*** ." If you know the difference between Rightist and Leftist politics , you will see that this is a sarcastic jab against the Right . Vukmir says : "Do you know what is proof that there is art in pornography? You , Milos . Your sense of handling a woman , your rhythm , of exhausting her , your talent to humiliate her , and then , when she is reduced to dog-s*** , to win her back ." More biting sarcasm . This is saying you exhausted NATO , humiliated NATO ( shot down stealth , minimal damage to Serbian equipment etc. ) but later you just let her back in . Milos says "I dunno , I'm a little tired of cameras and f******." This one is obviously about the civil wars . Cameras are referring to the world news cameras . Vukmir : "You're also tired of h****** scum any time your family needs dough. Kissing some wretched c**** with the same lips you' kiss your kid " This one is about the Serbian government asking for monetary assistance from the foreign governments ( the scum ) . What kind of h****** ? Western politician says to serbian politician , "Here is some money under the table . Now you arrange to sell us this company for cheap." You should be able to see now that pornography here is a metaphor for the relationship between the Serbian government and the western governments . Milos to his wife : "No , he's some kind of artist with a grand plan ... seems like he desperately needs me since he's willing to offer such cash ." Sarcasm about how the western governments are waving the carrot in front of the Serbian government . Marko : "It's not a d*** , it's a police stick ... why isn't he ... limp , like all the normal people." Spasojevic considers the current government a fascist police state . Vukmir : "Transmitted live to the world who has lost all that and now is paying to watch that from the comfort of an armchair ... Victim sells. " Referring to world media manipulation of the wars . Vukmir's rants . "This whole country is a bunch of kids discarded by their parents ." The people have been abandoned by their government ( hence the orphanage setting ) ; the government is busy looking after their own privileges and wheeling and dealings . One frequent complaint you will hear in Serbia is that there is no law . That's what I have for now ... i am currently working on other portions of the film and I will try to get back here another time .

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    • madmutz5150

      Apr 30th 2011, 17:36

      1

      I really don't know why anybody would waste his precious time on such a c**p movie, made by Serbian standard mediocrity. Nemamine had a proper remark upon everything and I will add just a few thoughts. As a resident of Serbia, living in that unfortunate country I can't blame only extremely corrupted Serbian government, corrupted by western governments (we know that pattern from Zeitgeist). The whole Serbian community is very comfortable with that system, there's no responsibilities, jurisdiction is under control of various political parties (beside a criminal, most gainful way to live here) and people is ok with that situation because they all can get a god jobs with a membership in that parties as a only qualification, and that also includes movie workers, directors and actors. As you might see, this movie is a product of negative selection, worthless in any way. Golden days of great Serbian (Yugoslav) movies are ancient history, it's not the question of movie budgets, but lack of ideas and self complacency of the people payed by politicians, even when they bark against them. And therefore, Serbia is not the "City of God", land, we walks upon the dead in other ways, without guts or pride, politically.

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    • FBBAshworth

      May 4th 2012, 19:47

      3

      I can't believe I was so stupid to watch that film, its not even good, it makes you want to kill yourself. At times I almost cried it was that bad, I'm only 14 I thought I'd be able to handle it but I regret it so much. Some of the scenes are so graphic and violent they made me feel so sick and disgusted. But over all they got the reaction from the film they wanted to and they did a good job, its a clever (but messed up) film. I didn't think it would be that bad!

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    • Crystal654

      Mar 13th 2013, 19:15

      5

      Nemamime's outline is well composed and I wish I could hear more insight on it.

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