Movie Reviews 98 – A Serbian Film (2010)

A Serbian FilmIf a film about violence shows that very violence subject matter  in gruesome and uncensored detail, does that mean that the film is an abomination and does not deserve praise even if other elements of the film are of the highest quality? Does not a great story, a great script, top notch acting and direction justify a positive categorization despite inclusion of violent and sexually explicit scenes? We’ve seen this argument before. Many times in fact.

I was going to pen a straight up review of A Serbian Film but the controversial aspects are inescapable and warrant a more serious look at this feature. At some point I realized that this was bothering me because I had seen it all before for one other movie movie in particular (although the general argument applies to many movies), and the more thought I put into it, the more it dawned on me that similarities are striking and comparable. A Serbian Film is this generation’s A Clockwork Orange. Banned in some countries. Reviled for its depiction of violence. Castigated for daring to question and put on trial human morals, ethics and common decency. And yet I cannot but praise this film.

Undoubtedly, A Serbian Film, is a controversial movie. A description of any number of the torture porn scenes would inevitably cause some furor and have some dismiss it as mere exploitation product without a second thought. If I did not pick up on this dismissiveness from the many reviews and magazine exposés, the fact was reinforced when a friend categorized it as exploitative trash after a watching a scant few minutes. But all the reviews and discussions also made it clear that there were as many proponents in the film’s corner proclaiming it’s greatness. With these conflicting views in mind I decided that it was time to find out for myself.

The very opening scene in the movie depicts a pre-school boy sitting in front of a TV, mouth agape, watching a porn movie.  We learn that he has stumbled upon a tape starring his dad, Milos, the recently retired porn king. But Milos is a bit troubled now that he has made the move to a sedate lifestyle for the sake of his wife and child. But he soon finds himself being aggressively recruited to make one more film for a mysterious producer.  He reluctantly accepts the movie proposition, but already has some qualms as there is an imposed secrecy regarding the any details regarding the script or storyline and that includes giving any details to the ‘actors’. (Yeah, I know.  Does anybody really care what the script is about in a porn movie?).

When Milos arrives for his first scene, he realizes that this is a dark and foreboding movie that will have him doing things even he has not performed before and the actresses in those ‘scenes’ aren’t exactly enthusiastic participants either. But when Milos declares he’s quitting obviously mentally impacted by what he has experienced this far, the producer will have none of it and threatens Milos and his family. From there on its a hunt and chase movie with stark visuals and flashbacks.

It’s hard to describe Milos’ experiences from then on, but suffice it to say that he ends up in more than one hellish, drug induced nightmare. The producer gets to film the depravity he was looking for, but at a cost. Even the finale is one big surprise after another, each one more sordid than the previous.

The controversy is a testament to the power of the horrors depicted and you do have to have a strong stomach for the visuals. But at the same time it is a great movie in many respects. One of the biggest surprises was the immaculate script chock full of double entendres and small chuckles as it navigates the many taboo subjects it encompasses , more so incredible seeing as it had to undergo a translation as well.

So this is definitely not a movie for everybody, but if you can stand the heat, this is one oven worth visiting.

(Respectfully submitted to you, K13. )

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