A Serbian Film (2010)

Creepy. I just saw it last night and just like Scott Weinberg said: “And I will never watch it again. Ever.” I quote him again: “”I think the film is tragic, sickening, disturbing, twisted, absurd, infuriated, and actually quite intelligent. There are those who will be unable (or unwilling) to decipher even the most basic of ‘messages’ buried within A Serbian Film, but I believe it’s one of the most legitimately fascinating films I’ve ever seen. I admire and detest it at the same time.” Well, I do not admire it and do not detest it, but it turns my stomach upside down. And really, I’m not some cry boy. But this is not scary, this is brutal. Forget about “Saw”, “Hostel” and even some of disturbing Asian films.
The state prosecution of Serbia opened an investigation to find out if the film violates the law. It is being investigated for elements of crime against sexual morals and crime related to the protection of minors. It was banned by a San Sebastián (Spain) court for “threatening sexual freedom” and thus could not be shown in the XXI Semana de Cine Fantástico y de Terror (21st Horror and Fantasy Film Festival). I’m one of the few – probably – who think that pornography may and should be a form of art, I can go on with some of  the “snuff movies” as well while I know it’s a movie and not the real thing, but when it comes down to child rape and necrophiliac themes it’s far over the edge. And I think this is the bottom line: we must keep in our mind – this is nothing but “just” a movie.

The film was released in UK theaters on December 10, 2010 in the edited form, with four minutes and eleven seconds of its original content removed by the British Board of Film Classification due to “elements of sexual violence that tend to eroticise or endorse sexual violence”. A Serbian Film thus became the most censored cinema release in Britain since the 1994 Indian film “Nammavar” that had five minutes and eight seconds of its violent content removed.

The plot is pretty simple: MiloÅ¡ is an aging and down-on-his-luck porn star (SrÄ‘an Todorović) agrees to participate in an “art film” directed by the mysterious Vukmir (Sergej Trifunović), introduced by Lejla (Katarina Zutic), one of his former co-stars, in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into something wildly different production. In the background  another story is running: his brother, a corrupt cop,  Marko (Slobodan BeÅ¡tić) is envios on MiloÅ¡ “career” and  have a crush on his wife Lejla (Katarina Žutić) as well. Another intrigue sewing in the story: the (twisted) portrait of the Serbian family.

Well, it’s an obvious allegory with the latest (the Third) Balkan Wars, a series of conflicts that led to the disintegration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia,  occurring over a decade-long period between 1991 and 2001. By 1991, the Serbian politician Slobodan Milosovic gained power in Yugoslavia through inciting Serb nationalism. Along with growing nationalistic feelings in the other parts of Yugoslavia, the day came when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from what they saw as a nation dominated by Serbs. The Yugoslav Army attempted to prevent the breakaway republics from leaving, but soon failed. Serbs living in southern and western Croatia then attempted to break away and form a new nation called Krajina. In 1992, Bosnia also broke away from Yugoslavia, precipitating yet another war. In southern Yugoslavia, the region called Macedonia broke away peacefully to form an independent nation. The latest conflict is the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. Beside the conflicts took place between the Serbs and their neighbors, between Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Slavs, it’s necessary to mention the firm intervention of N.A.T.O. between April, 1994  and September, 1995 witch included heavy bombings mostly in the last two month of the conflict.

In “A Serbian Film” SrÄ‘an Spasojević make a direct reference to this in one particular scene when under the influence of the drugs, and at Vukmir’s insistence, MiloÅ¡ brutally beats and rapes a nude woman handcuffed to a bed while Vukmir tells MiloÅ¡ that she deserves it for cheating on her husband, a Serbian war hero. In the climax of this scene, Vukmir instructs MiloÅ¡ to slice the woman’s head off with a machete in order to induce rigor mortis as he continues to have sex with her body. But this is not the one and only terrifying scene from the movie. It may be – and it is – subject of discussions if all the horrible scenes included really were  necessary and if they are a kind of twisted and sick artistic expression.  Even if I’m convinced that along the Balkan Wars many atrocities took place and many of them probably were even bloodier and even crudest, still I don’t know if it’s justify all that sexually explicit violence. Being very criticized, SrÄ‘an Spasojević responded to the controversy: “This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government… It’s about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotize you to do things you don’t want to do. You have to feel the violence to know what it’s about.” And I understand, this is not a film about “sex and violence”, but about sickness, manipulation, betrayer and finally about the darkness from the human mind and soul. As I’m conscious, making a movie about the war atrocities probably would not arouse that much attention.
On the other hand I appreciated how SrÄ‘an Spasojević created a growing tension, his movie have an excellent groove and perfect rhythm. Also I appreciated the theatrical made up of some of his scenes,  the subtle usage of lights, he prove intelligence, knowledge and a good taste for configuring the set. Somehow there are moments when he reminds me of  David Lynch. For the first film directed by SrÄ‘an Spasojević, I think he proved talent. Beyond the fact that he’s movie is absolutely shocking, even disgusting. As Tim Anderson said: it’s a “soul rape”.

But there’s something else that really bothering me. And that is the human nature. Precisely what the man is capable of. And I mean any man and not necessary and exclusively under extreme conditions. Because I believe all that Evil is present in everybody’s soul and it’s still a kind of mystery for me why the Evil get his way easier through a man’s soul then the Good.

I didn’t sleep very well last night, I wonder why?

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