Friday, 10 December 2010

A Serbian Film

Miloš is a retired Serbian porn star, living a happy life with his wife and son but financial worries cause him to accept one last job: The starring role in an “art film” being directed by a wealthy pornographer where he won’t know the script or the plot until shooting begins. It quickly becomes clear that the film isn’t at all what he believed it would be, as he is forced to have sex with a physically abused woman in front of a young girl. However, his reluctance to take part in such acts reveals the darker side of the director and his film crew, and things quickly turn violent...

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the film that I'm sure by now you’ve heard so much about. The most censored film in the UK in 15 years; it contains extremely graphic depictions of rape, necrophilia, sexual violence, child rape and incest. I understand there’s a morbid curiosity in many people to watch a film which has been banned or censored or contains extremely graphic scenes. Indeed, it’s what’s led me to watch films like A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist and Irreversible. A Serbian Film has decided to go for the graphic, horrifying imagery and has just gone complete berserk with it, throwing everything it can think of at you. Unfortunately, this has fallen victim to ‘Paranormal Activity Syndrome’ where it’s been overhyped somewhat so people are expecting it to be worse than it is. Whilst it’s not pretty, it’s not exactly the worst thing ever committed to celluloid either.

Somewhere amongst everything that happens on screen, director Srđan Spasojević insists the film is a political statement: "This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government... It's about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotize you to do things you don’t want to do. You have to feel the violence to know what it’s about." This is all very well and good, but while you’re watching this, it’s just difficult to look past the visuals and to try and read any kind of political meaning from this. At one point, the director Vukmir goes on a rant about children and the Serbian government (he’s a child psychologist, the film’s being partly shot in an orphanage) and at the end, the ‘real, happy Serbian family’ is turned on its head and made unrecognisable. It’s a strong statement made explicitly clear once you can get past the strong visuals, that is, IF you can.

The main character, Serbian ex porn star Miloš, is repulsed by what he’s told to do and is extremely disturbed by what he’s shown by the maniacal director Vukmir. I can only imagine how Srđan Todorović, the actor playing Miloš, felt during filming; I’m pretty sure even the most professional actor would have a problem simulating sex with a headless corpse whilst covered in blood. Sergej Trifunović is genuinely demented as the art film’s director, seemingly fixated on seeing his twisted perception of pornography come to fruition, backed by his intimidating film crew. Slobodan Beštić plays Miloš’s brother Marko with a sense of creepiness but with a disappointing lack of presence.

The plot of this film is merely a device to loosely connect the horrifying scenarios Miloš, and in turn the audience, is presented with. The story isn’t at all great, and starts out very generic with the main man wanting to provide for his family so he takes that ‘one last job’ to secure the family’s finances but inevitably it’s all going to go wrong. Of course, when it does start to go wrong, it becomes a car crash for poor Miloš. It seems as if Spasojević wrote down a list of everything taboo and still has the power to shock a film audience and made sure he put it into his script. I will say this for the film though: 1. It doesn’t relent. It doesn’t start to go all the way then wuss out like so many films do these days; it goes all out. 2. It’s not a consistent shock-fest. The film doesn’t try and deliver 99 minutes of shock and awe; it begins rather calmly in fact, but once the shock starts, there’s no going back and it certainly escalates throughout, all the way to its conclusion. 3. The ‘newborn porn’ scene. Whilst it is bad to see it, it does look amateurish, which is its only redeeming feature. It doesn’t hide the fact it’s still an awful thing to see on a cinema screen.

Overall, it’s a shining example of ‘shocking’ cinema and I’m sure this film’s status will give it a long life. It’s an exploitation film which cranks up the vile and sickening to 11 and smiles while it does it. It’s a brutal view, and it’ll take a strong stomach to get through some of the more disturbing moments; it won’t be the gore that gets you, it’ll be the visuals and the ideas. The story is complete guff, but you know as well as I do that this film isn’t about the story. If Srđan Spasojević was trying to make a political statement, then he’s made one which makes its point in the most shocking way possible. This is unlike any film you’ll have watched, I’ll guarantee it. If you do decide to watch this out of morbid curiosity, you will be mercilessly punished for being so inquisitive.

Rating: *1/2