There’s an old adage about scary movies that says what you don’t see is more frightening than what you do because nothing can duplicate the horror one envisions in his or her own mind. I couldn’t help but think about this theory as I watched A Serbian Film, a movie which peeked my interest based on several reviews and online forums which declared it to be “the most controversial film of all time.”
Though much of what I’d read regarding the movie repulsed me, I am, if anything, curious about films of this extreme nature even when I expect to be mortified by them. And while this movie certainly doesn’t lack in the way of shock value, much of the research I’d done prior to my viewing created mental images that made me much more uncomfortable than anything that came out of this predictable, boring and flat-out bad movie.
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic, A Serbian Film tells the story of Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), a former porn star known for his erectile potency, who is struggling to make ends meet in retired life as he looks for a way to support his wife and young son. Knowing his situation, a powerful and well-connected pornographer named Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) offers him a lucrative role in a mysterious “art film.”
Initially left in the dark about the film’s contents, Milos soon finds himself participating in a snuff film centering around necrophilia and pedophilia among other things, and the extreme content of the project pushes him to the edge and creates conflict with his demented director who will use any means necessary to complete his film.
I should start by saying that this review will contain spoilers, many of which are gruesome in nature. While I would normally try to refrain from revealing a film’s more significant moments, doing so for this movie is impossible, because without the gross out parts nothing stands as noteworthy. But if you’re either squeamish or interested in being surprised by the film’s atrocities, stop reading.
Basically, the merit of this movie can be summed up in two words: “newborn porn.” Not that looking deep into the depraved dimensions of one’s mind when they hear that phrase should be encouraged, but since my assumption is that such an idea will garner some type of reaction, it should be noted that this movie goes there.
That said, knowing vaguely about the scene prior to viewing the film, I found that the visual manifestation did little to transcend the queasy feelings I felt when I first heard said scene existed. Perhaps this speaks poorly of me as a person, but compared to what I had envisioned, the actual scene really wasn’t that bad.
Getting past that, I also found it difficult to formulate any sort of reaction to similar moments of brutality, such as when Milos fornicates with the body of a woman he’s decapitated, takes a knife to his erect dick, and kills a man by fucking him in his hollowed-out eye socket (the most shocking thing about this particular scene would be if anyone could actually take it seriously).
Then comes the ending, which I won’t reveal as it is integral to the plot. Though I will say it is admittedly unsettling. It’s also completely predictable and if you’ve been paying attention to the story at all, you will have ample opportunity to prepare yourself for it while you’re waiting for the rest of the movie to stop wasting your time (additional spoiler: it never does).
If it serves a valuable purpose, I have no problem with violence, even violence of an extreme nature (since Zac Pritcher is likely the only person who will read this, remember when I introduced you to Dumplings?). What I do have a problem with is a movie that believes it can use such deplorable situations to conceal the fact that it doesn’t have an interesting story to tell.
Part of me wishes I had been offended by A Serbian Film because then I would have at least felt something. The last feeling a movie like this should evoke is apathy. The film is, at the very least, competently acted and directed, but everyone involved is stuck in a tedious piece of nihilism which failed to live up to the sense of intrigued dread I was filled with when I read its synopsis and whose grotesquerie is outweighed only by its predictability.
Final Score: 2.0/10