Released in 2010, A Serbian Film immediately gained attention for its sexual representation of children and extreme violence. It was quickly banned in many major markets including Australia and Spain and even the state of Serbia opened an investigation into the film to determine if the shoot violated state law for ‘elements of crime against sexual morals and crime related to the protection of minors’.
The film surrounds that of a retired porn star named Milos (Srđan Todorović) who spends his days with his lovely wife (Jelena Gavrilović) and their young son Petar. But being an out-of-work actor doesn’t help pay the bills so when a former co-star calls on Milos and informs him that his talents are requested by a rich filmmaker, Milos agrees to come out of retirement for one more shoot.
Milos meets with the director/financer of the film, Vukmir (Sergej Trifunović) – an eccentric and passionate man who reveals very little in terms of the content of the film to which Milos agrees to star. Instead, Vukmir tells Milos that he wants him simply to react to the story being presented in front of him and to follow instructions that will be fed to him via a small ear piece.
As the days of shooting progress, things get increasingly more violent with most of the sexual play taking place in the presence of children. When Milos is asked to hit a woman orally pleasuring him in front of an Alice in Wonderland looking girl sitting in the room on a chair, Milos decides to quit the shoot and have his police brother Marko (Slobodan Beštić), investigate the secretive Vukmir.
In the meanwhile, Vukmir is intent on getting his film completed and ends up drugging Milos to get him into the next scene. It is during this scene – one of rape of a woman – that Milos is given a machete and in a drug induced rage, he kills the woman he is having sex with.
Although the movie had already crossed many moral lines that will undoubtedly make any audience quiver, shake or just plain turn away (or walk out as my screening partner did), the final chapters of A Serbian film really go for the jugular. There are repeated acts of sex and violence, one even involving a young boy about 12-years-old that is one of the more shocking and repulsive moments that I have experienced while watching a film.
There is one good kill though – an erect penis through the eye socket and puncturing the brain of one of the filming thugs. Such a scene would be met with laughter in any other film. Just the sheer audacity of it all. But you become some numb, so morally devoid of understanding that the scene plays as just another example of director Srđan Spasojević’s attempt to shock and dispose of any and all taboos surrounding what should be put on film short of snuff.
Even when we get to the final scene, after all the violence is over (or so we think), there is one more punch in the gut and a final line of dialogue in the film that no number of showers can overcome.
Two years back, I had commented that the Kôji Shiraishi film Grotesque was the most disturbing film I had ever screened. A Serbian Film can unproudly announce that it has matched Grotesque in reprehensible acts. But whereas Grotesque was just an attempt at pushing the limits of the already violent genre of gore porn, A Serbian Film takes it one step further and brings a depravity towards the characters and children that is not for the faint of stomach or for the mild interest film viewers that want to see what all the ‘fuss’ is about.
Nope. A Serbian film was made for a niche market. What market exactly I am not sure. And I hope I never find out. .
You may be surprised that our overall rating for the film sits at a comfortable 3. That does not mean that we condone or understand what we witnessed, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad film. It's visuals were appalling and its subject matter was sickening. But as vile and contemptible as the film was, it still told a story that is only further punctuated by the individual graphic scenes. A Serbian Film does have a message. One of the desensitizing of our society and the inner workings of an industry that strives to shock and awe.
I might not have appreciated the manner to which the point was addressed, but the film was simply 8MM on cocaine. And had a few minutes (well, maybe as many as 10 or more) been cut from the overall production, A Serbian Film may have gotten more recognition for its details and challenges to its viewers and not just the projection of sexual sadism.