Review: A Serbian Film

A Serbian Film - Silent Scream

Serbian director Srdjan Spasojevic’s sadistic creation is 2010’s notorious offering to the exploitation horror genre. The BBFC cut just over three minutes from it; it was banned in numerous areas, and was pulled from FrightFest horror festival over concerns over content. Of course, themes such as necrophilia, paedophilia, child abuse and ‘newborn porn’ are certainly going to raise a few eyebrows: viewers have walked out of screenings, and it has been described as ‘sick’ ‘ vile’ and ‘repulsive’. But is this an overreaction?

Retired porn legend Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) is drawn out of retirement when a mysterious business man offers him a large sum of money for participating in his film – an ‘artistic statement’. Only, Milos does not know what he is signing up for. He agrees nevertheless, and is later driven to an orphan home for abandoned children by a silent suit-clad henchman. He participates in two shoots, the latter of which involves him abusing a woman in front of a child. He then decides he wants to quit the project, and is subsequently shown a film on a projector screen in a scene that serves no purpose other than to illustrate extent of the porn director’s depravity. Milos is then drugged with an aphrodisiac that induces a violent, sexual and suggestible state, leaving him completely open to commit acts of debauchery against his conscious will.

A Serbian Film is not to be likened to the low-budget exploitation horrors aired at niche film festivals, however – the aesthetics are glossy and the production costs high. But whilst the special effects are realistic, the violence is ridiculous – it tries too hard to push every button, and for this reason, fails to be even nearly as disturbing as, say, Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing, or Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible. In fact, a lot of the violence in A Serbian Film is either partially obscured, or cut prematurely – compare the nine minute murder scene in Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing, or the rape scene in Irreversible to the ending of A Serbian Film. Irreversible and A Short Film are far more harrowing because they don’t look away, they are not saturated with violence and they avoid gimmicks such as aggressive music and frantic camerawork. A Serbian Film simply tries too hard – it uses every trick in the book and falls flat on its face.

That’s not to say that the film doesn’t cover deeper themes – themes of Freudian sexuality, political satire and sadism in the porn industry are all to be noted throughout, but are ultimately smothered by the film’s own obsession with gratuitousness, therefore losing all sense of gravity. A Serbian Film is an exercise in shock cinema that just falls short of shocking, and whilst I don’t think it deserves to be banned, I don’t think it deserves to be watched.

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38 thoughts on “Review: A Serbian Film

  1. Irreversible is a tough movie to watch. Not just the tunnel scene but the entire swirling camera thing is close to sickening.

    After everything I’ve ever heard about this – and this beautiful write up – I still think I’ll give this one a skip and take your word for it : ) I don’t consider myself a prude but there’s some things I just don’t want to see : )

  2. Yes, the camera work is really sickening in Irreversible, it’s a very disorienting film! Did you know that Gaspar Noe also augmented the sound track to Irreversible with infrasound – inaudible sonics at a pitch that induce nausea! Police use the same thing to quell riots. Poor audience!

    Thank you so much for reading :) and I’m glad to hear you will be giving it a miss. You’re right – there are some things you definitely don’t want to see!

  3. Must confess this seems more like something that my brother would end up reviewing on our site. I ended up txting him about after reading this review and he said he was still steeling himself up for a viewing.

  4. Nice review, I have been gearing myself up to give this a watch for a while now. I haven’t seen a Short Film About Killing but I have seen Irreversible. Definitely a movie I will never forget. I do think Noe is guilty of being about the gimmicks as well though. In I Stand Alone he actually put a disclaimer on the screen inviting people to leave now before it gets bad. That kind of stuff is straight out of a Roger Corman film. With Irreversible he spent time researching sounds that would make people physically ill and the first 30 minutes of the film there is a 28Hz background noise purposely trying to make the audience sick. Irreversible is an amazing film though, definitely worth checking out. Have you seen Enter the Void? I see it’s streaming on Netflix and I have been meaning to check it out. I will take a look at At Short Film About Killing. Sounds interesting.

  5. Hi! Thanks for stopping by and reading! Noe using infrasound to make his audience sick – that is audience abuse to the highest degree! You’re right about the gimmicks there – i think that the problem with A Serbian Film is that it’s badly directed, so the gimmicks draw attention to themselves too much. I like your fact about Noe’s disclaimer to I Stand Alone – that’s a very grindhouse movie thing to do :)

    I’ve not seen Enter the Void yet, I keep meaning to watch it – I’ll make time for it this week I think. Do check out A Short Film if you can (the fill length version if poss!) It’s part of Kieslowski’s Dekalog series. You must let me know what you think when you get round to watching it – I don’t think i’ve ever met anyone who has seen it so i’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

  6. Your final wrap up of this review is spectacular. I still refuse to see it and I considered it it a few times. I’m glad I haven’t. I’ll watch Dead Alive instead. Thanks!

  7. Just found your blog today, glad I did! Great review. I don’t think I’ll ever watch something like this and your review confirmed my dread.

  8. Nice to see you review this! I watched it last year, and thought it was just an awful film. Not because of the gratuitous content, I just don’t think there was anything redeeming or good about it. Nice write up :)

    • Thank you for reading! :) Glad to hear you thought the same ..i think the only word for this film is ‘trash’, and not the good kind! oh well, at least we’ve seen it to warn others off it!

  9. I watched A Serbian Film and felt unhygienic afterwords. I’m all for shock cinema and I am an avid fan of all horror, but this just seemed like a pointless effort. Deeper meanings and hidden themes, maybe…but I think it was an attempt made just to see how far it could go. Great review and site by the way, I am now following. I just started my own film blog and would appreciate it if you could check it out. Hopefully you will like what you see.

  10. Thanks for stopping by and reading :) I’m glad you agree here – spread the word – it’s a terrible film!
    I’ve just followed your site- excellent blog! I’ll have a proper read a but later on. When did you start it?

  11. “Irreversible and A Short Film are far more harrowing because they don’t look away…”

    That is a perfect comparison to A Serbian Film. Really, that’s everything you need to know about this movie Completely agreed with your review.

  12. You shouldn’t tell someone not to watch a movie. That’s retarded. I honestly enjoyed the movie, and I think you missed the point. It’s more about showing the things that happen in that area of the world. It may partially be a “shock film,” but I don’t think that’s the main point of it. You should be encouraging people to watch the movie so that they can form their own opinions on it.

  13. ‘Retarded’? Charming ;)

    I didn’t tell people not to watch it, I said that in MY opinion, it fails as a film and is not good enough for me to recommend.

    I don’t think I did miss the point. It’s a failed shock film masquerading as a satire. If you want political satire, I’d like to point you in the direction of Emir Kusturica’s film ‘Underground’, which, by the way, is also from and about Serbia! It’s a riot, you’ll love it!

    Showing what’s happening in that part of the world? Are you KRAZY? newborn porn? a fictional drug? i don’t think so. It’s fantasy. Maltreatment in the porn industry though? Well that is not exclusive to Serbia, & this film still fails to raise awareness about that issue, I think.

    I’m glad to her you managed to glean some intellectual nutrients from this pile of cinematic waste! You’ve got more patience than me. Thanks for commenting, drop by again soon :)

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