Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Serbian Film **

Director: Srdjan Spasojevic
Cast: Srđan Todorović, Sergej Trifunović, Jelena Gavrilović
Slobodan Beštić, Katarina Žutić

A Serbian Film can be applauded for its ambition but questioned for its execution. Director Spasojevic decided that the best way to embody his opinions on the state of his country, was to deliver them in the same way he perceives them: through unnecessary violence and almost hedonistic pessimism.
Todorović stars as Miloš, a semi retired porn star who was once considered "an artist of fuck", but gave up the industry to be with his family.
When the film begins, his young son (Luka Mijatović) pops in one of papa's classics in the VCR and watches in awe as his father screws the hell out of a big breasted woman. Conflicted by what he's just seen, he asks his mother (Gavrilović) what it all means, to which she replies "they're cartoons for grownups".
Not coincidentally, this very expression encompasses what the rest of the film feels like. Miloš receives an offer from an eccentric producer named Vukmir (Trifunović) to star in one last film. Something that will redefine pornography and place it as art.
Seduced by the paycheck, Miloš accepts and unknowingly becomes part of a snuff film where masked men have sex with corpses, children and beaten women.
Soon enough we get it, yes, the Serbian government is "fucking" its people in all sorts of atrociously inhuman ways but the filmmaker's attempt to symbolize this comes off looking as nothing more than silly exploitation.
For every horrifying scene and "shocking" twist, we are robbed of an actual statement being made. The director fails in linking these images of violence with a larger feeling and to make matters worse, none of the violence in the movie is truly outrageous.
Some might find them disgusting by default (especially scenes of pedophilia) but much more effective work has been done in the genre without recurring to the obviousness of a bloodied phallus to revolt audiences.
In fact this is the reason why the movie fails to deliver any sort of message; why should people be outraged when the filmmakers show such little care for their craft?
Perhaps Spasojevic's intentions got lost within the excitement he found by staging these scenes of torture. In fact, some of these moments are so meticulously done, that you wonder why didn't he set out to make a straightforward horror movie.
His seeming heartlessness would've done wonders to refresh the stale faux horror of something like Saw, but come short of fulfilling the director's obvious need to say something "important"about his country.
Despite all of the mentions of war orphans, Hague councils and stabs at violent military intervention, the film still comes off looking as rather childish and self indulgent.
It's never as shocking as it wants to be and it even lacks the self awareness to be subversive comedy. The hilarity of lines like "I want both of your heads to be clear and hard", uttered by the fantastic Trifunović, get lost in an amalgam of quick cuts, silly technical flourishes and a cliché ridden structure that tries to be Memento by way of Hostel.
Yet still the director's intentions, beginning with the very fact that he named his movie "A Serbian Film" to suggest it's socially and politically conscious portraiture, manage to linger in your mind and set off discussions that will last until the next gore-fest arrives.

1 comment:

Tom Clift said...

"Despite all of the mentions of war orphans, Hague councils and stabs at violent military intervention, the film still comes off looking as rather childish and self indulgent."

This pretty much sums up how I felt about the film as well. The movie has the subtlety of...well, a child rape scene - I'm not familiar with Serbian government censorship, but having the characters constantly spelling out the "message" through the paiful dialogue made any statement this film was trying to make amongst it's intentionally repulsive content fall flat. Ultimately I found this movie dull and stupid.