A Serbian Film (2010)


*. A Serbian Film almost immediately gained a reputation as one of the most “disturbing” films ever made. I don’t know if this is significant. It’s certainly violent and depraved, and the sort of film that makes you wonder how much further things can go, but that’s a question we always ask ourselves until the next horrible thing comes along.
*. Do we have to take it seriously? Should we? Or is it just a hysterical yelp for attention from the European backwoods?
*. I was put off right from the start. Not because of the sexual content but because we’re supposedly watching a porn movie and it doesn’t look like any porn I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen my share). Porn is a fantasy, but this movie is a fantasy about porn, which makes it twice removed from reality.
*. I mean, it’s a sad fact but male porn stars don’t make much money. Even the best-known, award-winning cocksmen in the U.S. have to take day jobs to pay the rent. Yet we’re to believe Miloš is enjoying an early and affluent semi-retirement after a few years of making ghetto porn in Serbia?
*. I’d add to this how unrealistic a lot of the body effects are. In particular, most of the cocks we see are obviously rubber prostheses. They just look silly.
*. Isn’t it curious that Miloš never asks Vukrim if he is going to have to do anything illegal (involving children or non-consensual sex or snuff)? I would have thought these would be obvious questions.
*. Then there’s the over-the-top gross-out stuff. Aside from how little sense it makes (bull Viagra? really?), most of the “big scenes” seem to me like crude dramatizations of the sort of tasteless high-school jokes that were popular in the 1980s. Sex with a baby? Decapitating a girl while fucking her doggy-style? Skull-fucking a guy with an empty eye socket? These were all punchlines back in the day.
*. I’ll play along though and take it seriously. This leads me to ask what the point of it all is. Let’s consider some possibilities.
*. Porn wrecks families. It destroys marriages and hurts kids. Or perhaps the family itself is a demonically dysfunctional institution (this latter position is more in keeping with traditional horror-film norms).
*. Serbia is a victim country getting its revenge on . . . someone. NATO? The West?
*. Serbians are victims of their own government. This is the explanation (or at least one of them) offered up by writer-director Srdjan Spasojević: “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.” Hm. Has  Spasojević ever had a cock in his eye socket?
*. It’s basically just another version of Hostel, with a financial elite who pay to play in the ruins of Eastern Europe: torturing and killing people for kicks. This isn’t satire or allegory, it’s how the 1% are fucking us over every day.
*. It’s the revenge of the voyeurs; of the Sex Negatives on the Sex Positives, to borrow the nomenclature of Café Flesh.
*. It’s a twenty-first century re-imagining of The Magus.
*. It’s a full-frontal assault on the canons of political correctness. This is another line put forward by Spasojević, who apparently thought he was attacking the boring conventionality of contemporary Serbian filmmaking. In this interpretation, Vukrim becomes “an exaggerated representation of the new European film order.”
*. I really don’t understand anything Spasojević has said about this film. I also don’t understand anything Vukrim says about blood, booze, sex, and victimization. It sounds like bullshit to me. I suppose something may be getting lost in translation, but I doubt it.
*. In fact, I don’t understand anything at all about Vukrim. How did he get so rich working as a child psychologist at a state orphanage in Serbia? What is it about the Serbian economy that places porn stars and child psychologists at the top of the income ladder?
*. Maybe it has something to do with their education. Miloš is apparently the only Serbian porn star with a degree. Miloš’s wife is a translator working in several languages. And Miloš’s brother tells him that he will have never worked for a more educated man than Vukrim. These people aren’t down and out, they’re intellectuals!
*. All of this is just throwing stuff at the wall. Personally, I don’t think there’s any deeper meaning to it than an attempt by a young director to make a name for himself by way of a succès de scandale. Mission accomplished. But it’s easier to be controversial than it is to be good.
*. I didn’t find it to be suspenseful, shocking, funny, or even all that interesting. It really says something that the horrifying big reveal at the end comes as a totally predictable yawn.
*. Trying hard to be nice, I’ll concede it’s a good-looking film most of the time (though I think this ultimately works against it), and Srdjan Todorović puts in a great performance as Miloš, a decent man gone down the rabbit hole like Alice into Pornland. I like him, even if I don’t believe in his existence.
*. Yes, it’s a movie that made its mark. But probably not in any lasting or memorable sense. The world of sensation keeps turning. Next stop . . .

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