You know how some people say they feel like they need to take a shower after they watch a certain type of film, because it for some reason or another just makes you feel gross and dirty. Well let me tell you after watching A SERBIAN FILM, a shower won’t nearly be enough; the content within the last hour or so of this film is so degrading and vile that the great production value, music and acting all start to feel wasted thanks to actions that seem purely there for the shock value and not just for any type of political commentary. There is so much of this film that is done exceedingly well that it’s actually kind of disappointing it goes down a path of pure depression and utter trash to the point of being nearly unwatchable.
A SERBIAN FILM is the story of an out of work porn star, Milos, struggling to make ends meet for his wife and son when a former co-star contacts him out of the blue. She informs him that an artistic filmmaker wants him to star in his next film and will pay him a large sum of money so that he and his family will not have to worry about finances for the rest of their lives; the catch is that Milos cannot know what the film is about. Milos begins to grow suspicious about his new employer after a few of the scenes he’s filmed and wants to back out, but he soon realizes that he is in way over his head as his life spirals completely out of control.
I was very engaged in this film for the first 45 minutes or so. The acting and even the script are very well done and extremely sexually explicit. The last hour of the film is chock full of sickening sexual content that is impossible to find entertainment in. If there are people out there that find entertainment in many of the scenes in the last half of the film I might have to worry. While I cannot condone the acts in the film I will say the visuals and the twists were indeed effective, therein lies the tricky part in rather or not I enjoyed the film.
Overall, it is not a terrible film as far as the technical aspects are concerned it is just so morbid and disgusting that it’s tough to admit that I thought it was a good film. I believe the moral compass of this film points 100% south; there is no redeeming message or trace of wholesome entertainment that would warrant recommendation or a need to ever watch the film again. I’ve read interviews that the film is supposed to be a statement against the Serbian government and what not, but political messages do not even come close to justifying some of the visuals and actions in this film. I am a huge supporter of people’s right of free speech and the ability to shoot and release a film uncut with the director’s vision and I will not take the stance of a hypocrite here. I will not champion this film or its message and I will not defend the choices it makes as it violates every decent bone in my body as well as my morals, but I also am not going to vehemently fight the movie’s existence.
As always I am going to avoid specific scenes and avoid spoiling aspects of the film, but I also may mention parts of it in passing but without details. I already know that by saying how disturbing the visuals are and by recommending to stay far away that’s likely not going to deter anyone from wanting to see it for themselves, so I’ll just say that you really do need to see this stuff to really believe it.
The good of this film is overshadowed by the bad; which is an unfortunate problem many movies strike throughout the history of film. The script, which is quite obviously sexually charged and explicit, was surprisingly interesting and enjoyable even if it was sort of awkward. I often felt like I should be embarrassed to be enjoying people talking about how great someone was in bed and how magnificent their genitalia looks. There is something about the exposure of a character’s private desires, deviance and shame that makes for interesting drama, even if seeing it makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s when the film decides not to leave well enough alone and starts blatantly crossing the lines of social norms and acceptability in an extreme and obscene way that it started losing my willingness to go along for the ride.
The actors all give this material their all, and perform very well as a result; in fact, it might be because they perform these acts in such a believable way that it becomes very unsettling. The main character Milos sees and actually commits what I’m willing to say are the most shocking and appalling acts of sexual depravity anyone will ever see, and one in particular that is so audacious that I became sick to my stomach and couldn’t believe anyone would think it was ok to put this to film. I find very little about the actual events of this film to be creative or artistic; the art comes in the actual look of the film and the filmmakers ability to build and sustain tension divorced from the images on screen and the music in the film accentuates the tone and elevates that initial 45 minutes very well.
I want to put the violence of this film in perspective; there is no doubt that there is a great deal of bloodshed in A SERBIAN FILM, but I’ll tell you now, I have seen bloodier films. However, it’s the presentation of the violence and the reality of what you have to see and accept is happening, is horrifying. Admittedly I have a tendency to feel like I’ve seen just about everything in a film, but there is a reveal towards the end of this film that shocked and repulsed me not because it’s graphically violent, but because of the psychological repercussions of what is happening. The film is without a doubt emotionally devastating, but in the worst possible way. The ending to this film is one which only adds insult to injury; think of one of the most depressing and pessimistic endings you can think of and try and imagine a way to make it exponentially worse with a single line of dialogue.
A SERBIAN FILM is a movie that I am destined to have a love/hate relationship with; I love the film for its acting, music and escalation of tension, but I can’t help but hate it for the despicable actions of characters that will haunt me for a very long time. Political allegory or not the content in the last hour of the film is irresponsible and truly disturbing; I will commend the filmmakers for their ability to keep me on my toes and illicit a primal and devastating emotional breakdown, but denounce for the same reasons. As fans we salivate for filmmakers to take chances and show us something that challenges us, but at what cost. A SERBIAN FILM attempts and succeeds at being a shocking representation of sex and violence but the mixture of the two in this way might be a little too much to swallow, no pun intended.