NOTE: The following review includes spoilers and intricate plot details of the film.
This keeps dropping in lines like ‘ahh, a Serbian family’ (over a scene of rape, incest, murder and exploitation of course) and briefly mentions that the villain is like someone you’d meet at the Hague, which – along with the title – suggests a specific national meaning to what is otherwise a remorseless, grim, well-made, horrifying (if guessable – is that a deliberate sense of impending tragedy or just an indictment of how limited our taboos are) picture. I’m not entirely sure what purpose it has beyond ultra-shock (there’s enough hot button child abuse to turn everyone off), and its take on extreme arty porn as a symptom of impending apocalypse is also perhaps too familiar from the mainstream likes of 8MM or even the David Lynch of LOST HIGHWAY to be truly confrontational. We’re in VIDEODROME territory, with much more gruesome, explicit, unpleasant set-pieces.
It opens with a fuck in an alley outside the Club Filth which turns out to be an extract from a porn film called Milosh the Filthy Stud, which is being watched by a wide-eyed, tousle-haired, innocent little boy named Petar (the child actor isn’t credited). The kid’s parents come in, and Marija (Jelena Gavrilovic) is only mildly upset that her husband Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), a retired porn star, has left the film out: they even have a sensible, reassuring conversation with the child which convinces you they’re insane or entirely reasonable. Milos is approached by old co-star Lelja (Katarina Zutic), who has slipped to donkey movies, and introduced to Vukmir Vukmir (Sergei Trifunovic), who has a Satanic beard and wants to make transgressive art porn (he reminds me of José Mojica Marins, in his screen character and perhaps his auteur ambitions) with Milos as the lead, following a pre-written script the star won’t get to see. Milos is leery, but the money is so good even his wife suggests he takes the job. Marko (Slobodan Bestic), Milos’ brother, is an obviously bad cop who, as hinted early on, is much badder than Milos knows: Marko leers at Marija’s bottom and watches home movies of the happy family as a hooker goes down on him, then expresses envy at his brother’s potency and lifestyle as shown in his old movies. Milos turns up for work, and plods around a near-empty orphanage as armed thugs in cop uniforms film all the action, which starts with abusive sex and gets worse and worse. A sexy mad doctor (Lena Bogdanovic) out of a different film (say, DEATH WARMED UP) doses Milos with what turns out to be cattle aphrodisiac, and he is manipulated into increasingly awful acts. When Vukmir exposes Milos to a screening of a film in which a woman gives birth and one of the thugs proceeds to rape the new-born baby (‘This is a new genre, Milos -- newborn porn!’), even he calls it a day and walks out – but is pulled back in.
The second half of the film finds a badly-injured, zonked-out Milos – bleeding from most orifices – retracing his footsteps and reviewing tapes which show him truly awful events he has participated in and blanked out: being buggered while unconscious by one of the cops is among the happier moments, and the set-piece finish finds him raping two anonymous exposed asses on a bed with a masked co-star joining in – only for the masks and sheets to come away and reveal he has been raping his own son while his evil brother (who has presumably set this up) is raping his already-raped wife. This is when Vukmir exclaims ‘a perfect Serbian family’ and Milos and Marija go into revenge mode and kill all their tormentors – the baby-rapist is fucked to death through the eye-socket by Milos’s ever-hard dick, and the others pretty much get what they deserve too. Vukmir is killed but a coda, as Milos kills himself, his wife and child with a single shot, introduces a new director who has been filming the larger story and we mercifully fade to the credits before a new star follows orders to fuck the corpses, starting with ‘the little one’.
Directed and co-written (with Aleksandar Radivojevic) by Srdjan Spasojevic, this has a distinctive widescreen look and an impressive, slightly stylised use of dim lighting and art direction (the snuff sets look more like a Philippe Starck hotel than the usual reclaimed industrial site) that adds a certain distance that means this isn’t quite the hateful ordeal the synopsis makes it sound like. Todorovic, who suffers about as much as any leading man in the movies, gives a strong performance: though this features more than its share of abused women (dosed on her own drugs, the doctor pipe-rapes herself offscreen and staggers onset suffering from fatal internal injuries; Lelja has all her teeth yanked out with pliers and is literally choked to death by Marko’s dick), it primarily assaults its supposed stud lead, physically, mentally and emotionally. Still, I can’t imagine this being anyone’s idea of fun.
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic
Serbian language / Serbia / 2009 / 104 Mins UNCUT / Colour / Unrated
Note the BBFC have cut the film for an 18 certificate stating the following:
"The filmmakers have stated that A Serbian Film is intended as an allegory about Serbia itself. The Board recognises that the images are intended to shock, but the sexual and sexualised violence goes beyond what is acceptable under current BBFC Guidelines at ‘18’. The Board has therefore required 49 individual cuts to the work amounting to approximately three minutes 48 seconds. These include cuts to the juxtaposition of images of children with sexual and sexually violent material. Although the Board does not regard these images as likely to contravene the Protection of Children Act 1978, the Guidelines state that intervention is most likely with, amongst other things, ‘portrayals of children in a sexualised or abusive context’."
Ratio: Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Release date A Serbian Film will be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from 3rd January 2011. Special features include an introduction by Srdjan Spasojevic, exclusive to the UK home entertainment release.
Distributor Revolver Entertainment
SPRSKI FILM (aka A Serbian Film)