Cinema-Maniac: A Serbian Film (2011) Review

Pre-viewing Conversation

Izanagi: So the reason you’re seeing this movie is because of bragging rights correct?

Caesar Mendez: No I’m not. I just want to get it out of my system.

Izanagi: Why? You already proved your endurance seeing Salo and Cannibal Holocaust arguably considered to be the most disturbing movies ever made.

Caesar Mendez: I know, but “A Serbian Film” is, well, a Serbian film.

Izanagi: Are you sure you don’t want me to invite Matoi? At least when she’s around you put effort into your jokes.

Caesar Mendez: Oh please no. Last time I made her see a movie she hated, well lets just say it got very elaborate.

Izanagi: Oh yeah. Who knew you could do so much with a pair scissors when it came to….

Caesar Mendez: Don’t complete that sentence. Remember my policy.

Izanagi: Really? You know it’s not that bad. You don’t have to censor it. And since you’re not paying any attention to me. Just start the film.

So if a film has a stigma for “disturbing content” I might see it since I’m naturally curious on what my “breaking point” will be. You know, the film that makes me just want to stop seeing it because of how vile the content is. It is a search that while not ideal for the common film fan it is for this maniac. As stated in the past, I’m open to all forms of cinema rather than limiting choices on personal preferences. I absolutely detest rape, but I’ve seen films exploring the physiological consequences of rape throughout one’s life (the masterpiece Mysterious Skin) and seen films that uses it as a cheap tool to gain sympathy (I Spit On Your Grave). In terms of content there’s only two films (as of the date this review posting) that I can think of that can top “A Serbian Film”; the documentary “Earthlings” and semi-found footage film “Cannibal Holocaust”. Specifically because everything in “Earthlings” is actual footage of animal slaughter is shown in detail and parts of “Cannibal Holocaust” are real that blurs the line for the uninformed between what’s real and just fiction. As a work of fiction “A Serbian Film” should check itself into a mental ward. The closest fictional film that comes close to matching it psyche is “Nekromantik” which if you know what’s good for you. DON’T look up the ending to “Nekromantik”.

A Serbian Film is about an aging porn star who agrees to participate in an “art film” in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film. The story of the film is handle sloppily disregarding common sense. So try to picture a shady man you never met before offering you lots of money to do a specific job without giving you any details. At first the protagonist makes the rational hesitation on taking up the offer to participate in this specific job. Despite the protagonist gut feeling that there’s something wrong about the job he’s put in a position where his irrational acceptance makes sense. It’s a motivation that’s simple to grasp and garner some sympathy towards some of the film characters. Now picture you accepting the job and notice on your first day what you experience further strengthen your hesitation to work for this shady man. Our protagonist is given a reasonable motivation for taking the job, but does not apply equally to his dedication to maintain the shady job knowing the possible hint of danger. His motivation to remain isn’t developed to the point it’s able to sell the viewer with the protagonist decision. Plus there’s these things called phones which the film characters sometime used to communicate to each other except when it crucial in order to move the story.

Logically the protagonist should have been more cautious, but at the same time is sympathetic. He’s given a simplistic backstory of being a struggling father who’s retire from a perceived less than glamorous profession. It’s simple and straight to the point. However, the “bonding” moments between the protagonist and his son are things no words can do justice too. How one exactly goes about casually discussing how to “play with one self” is beyond me, especially if the kid is around ten years of age. These scenes give off a different vibe than what was meant to get across, but does display the protagonist attempting to be a good father even if the topic of discussion is inappropriate. Another good aspect about the film is the physiological breakdown of the film protagonist. Progressively the protagonist is broken down and his faith in humanity is utterly broken when it reaches the climax. Naturally seeing every step of his breakdown and what exactly triggers it to the point where his reaction is difficult to argue against. Especially when witnessing what the poor man goes through in the climax.

Where the story falls apart is also during its climax. During the course of the film it comes across as if the film would touch upon the film medium. As if to make a point on how far should the visionary and the participants take the artform before it’s consider to be too much for any rational thinking person to dissect. Of course I’m kidding since characters dialogue is often nationalize basically saying stuff like “make artistic porn to bring back our nation’s pride” or anything basically involving sex. In context character talking like this is rather goofy not adding to anything in the long run. How exactly the correlation between “Newborn Porn” ties into government injustices is flimsy at best. If it does connect to political commentary than the message is government likes to [you know the word] with people. In some cases that’s a true statement of poor government, but the context of the story and the devices implemented doesn’t in any form represents any ideals of politics. Let alone provide any elements where the correlation is feasible even metaphorically.

Now on to the main course of discussing aspects of it content and this is coming from a person who witness necrophilia, castrations, animal cruelty, and prolonged rape in some films he’s seen. A Serbian Film does not live up to its stigma of having vile content that makes you want to stop viewing it. For example, in the film there’s a scene involving two characters seeing footage of “Newborn Porn”. Sounds disgusting regardless how questionable the content in films you’ve seen have been, but instead of showing the actual “Newborn Porn” we see the back of a specific performer and primarily shown reaction shots of the characters viewing the footage. The way it’s presented is not vile nor difficult in taking in the scene as a plot device thanks to good editing conveying the purpose. However, given the title of the footage being “Newborn Porn” there’s no arguing the director went about it the best way in not showing it directly towards the audience since it occurs off screen. Rather than simply include this scene for shock value (ok, from my perspective at least) it gets across there is fine line between what should be film and what can be film. Within the context it’s the film inciting incident which is basically a fancy way for writers of saying it’s an event that is struck upon the protagonist(s) where their life changes from the norm to adapt to the story’s plot. The way the scene is film gets across the idea of it rather than explicitly show it. Although I’m not sure if the sadist filmmakers that came up with the scene or the actual viewers that fill in the blank in their minds when viewing said scene that has a more troubling mindset than the person who’s defending it.

Where a majority of the film “vile content” comes from is in the film final thirty minutes that contain a number of rape scenes and spontaneous murder. Out of the whole film there is one scene that might trigger a reaction of sickness and one in the climax that will trigger a reaction questioning your decision to view the film entirely. Of course due to personal regulations I won’t discuss the specifics despite the previous paragraph touching on the most controversial (off screen) scene in the film. The reason being we’re shown in these scenes the whole performance of vile action rather than a fraction of vile action being performed. However, despite what occurs in the climax it will bring new meaning to the term “hard-on”. It’s very questionable why the director would include a moment where’s the protagonist cocka doodle doo can pierce through flesh and a kill a man in a scene that involves rape. Not lying, I laughed when I witness this moment in the scene, and at the same time am very jealous of the power of it. Lets just move on after that questionable series of sentences.

The production values for the film are very good. Director Srdjan Spasojevic maintains a bleak tone throughout the film. By creating such an atmosphere even during the film first hour you never feel like you’re adjusting to comfortably seeing it. It’s lighting is one of those reasons that while in most scenes everything is visble there’s are always a hint of shadiness. Where the dynamic of a scene is made very clear and more effective for it. The score for the film is foreboding slowly building to a more enraging sound when it becomes more transgressive. Acting is also another bright spot especially from it star Srdjan Todorovic. He’s fully committed in his performance never once being unconvincing, even when the film goes to the extreme. Becoming enveloped in a wide arrange of emotions when he’s angry it’s believable and he’s a broken man he really come across as someone loss hope in humanity. His costar Sergei Trifunovic is also excellent. Even when he’s given simple talking scene his mannerism makes anything no matter how positive sounding very shady. Trifunovic appearance also adds to his role in particular his sinister smile. Supporting cast are also good, though most of their roles aren’t as developed as Todorovic. Slobodan Bestic for example mostly stays in the mindset of secretly desiring his brother wife and it isn’t until the climax where he gets a change in character. Jelena Gavrilovic is is allowed more ranged and comes across as the most sane in the cast which is saying something. Each of the actor are believable in their role and are committed to it not letting the context bother them.

A Serbian Film doesn’t live up to the stigma of “disturbing cinema” the same way “Cannibal Holocaust” does, but as a whole contains great production values, good acting, and an okay story with sympathetic characters. Of course with that said I will acknowledge that not all viewers have viewed the same films I have so from that perspective I understand because exposure to such material varies. However, there’s no denying it is one well made film from a technical standpoint and well acted whose good qualities get overlook due to the reaction to its content.

7/10

Post viewing conversation

Izanagi: So it’s a good thing I didn’t invite Matoi to see this. Given her bad habit to lose large amount of blood she would have kicked your…

Caesar Mendez: Uh, I told you to not introduced any gimmicks when it comes to my reviews. If you keep doing this my readers are going to believe I plan to do something with these fictional characters gimmick even though I just simply want to express my position on certain films.

Izanagi: Wait? You’re willfully admitted there’s nothing meaningful to our usage in this review?

Caesar Mendez: Of course. If I pretended your usage in this review was to metaphor apartheid that would make me pretentious. Clearly pretending to be one thing to justify what I do even though the foundation provided does not support it.

Izanagi: You know could have said that in your review without including both dialogue. So in a way. Yeah, you sorta are pretentious.

Caesar Mendez: In this case, I’ll give you that one. So want me to call Ryuk and you know?

Izanagi: Nope. Not even he can help me unsee this movie. It’s actually his new all time favorite method when it comes to his job as full time Shinigami (Gods that invite humans toward death).

Caesar Mendez: Well then, I guess it could be worse.

Izanagi: It could be in. Three, two, one.

Matoi: WHAT’S THIS ABOUT YOU CALLING ME MEANINGLESS?

Caesar Mendez: IZANAGI!

Izanagi: Yep, she heard everything you said.

Ryuko Matoi: You thought “A Serbian Film” was rough? After I’m done you “A Serbian Film” will be a cakewalk in comparison.

Caesar Mendez: It was a cakewalk for me, than again I guessed the films I see and personal experience helped in my disconnection with my more human side. Well, that’s all folks. So what’s it gonna be this time Matoi?

Ryuko Matoi: For starter we’ll begin with something by Jorge Ameer than I’ll….

Caesar Mendez: No. Noooooooo. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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