Director: Srdjan Spasojevic (2010)
Starring: Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic
Literal torture porn. A Serbian Film is actually about torture and pornography, and it doesn't much shy away from either. Not since Martyrs have I seen a torture movie that was actually shocking. The likes of Hostel, Seed, 7 Days and Craptivity all delivered on gross-out moments and hard violence, but none were genuinely hard to watch and all, crucially, had really crappy stories.
A Serbian Film does not have a really crappy story. Even without the torture, it would be an interesting movie. Retired pornstar Milos (Todorovic) is bored and poor, spending his days watching own skin flicks, teaching his son how to masturbate and drinking whiskey. So when an old contact appears and makes Milos an offer he can't refuse, he ends his premature retirement to appear in the ultimate porno - the titular Serbian Film.
Without knowing what the movie's about, Milos signs the contract. He's quite happy to wander around fucking stuff on command until the director's real intentions become clear. It all gets a bit nasty when Milos is expected to do fucks in the presence of a woman's child. Understandably unhappy with such nastiness, Milos quits. Then things get really, really nasty. Unless, like me, you're watching the Region 2 cut, in which case they only get nasty up to a point. Beware, here be spoilers. Up to a point.
If you watch the UK cut of A Serbian Film, you'll find it missing over 4 minutes of footage. According to research (yes, I do research now) it's more specific shots than scenes; namely, those which frame children in the same shots as sexual scenes. That they managed to find 4 minutes worth of shots like this doesn't exactly surprise me. There are a lot of sexual scenes in A Serbian Film, and a lot of children involved. Decide for yourself whether those shots will take anything from the experience. There's also a better article on its censorship here.
More intact than you might expect it to be is the infamous baby rape, or 'newborn porn' as director Vukmir (Trifunovic) calls it. There are a few seconds missing, but you'll go away as traumatised as Milos after seeing it. It's easily one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen in a horror movie. But it's not really 'newborn porn'. This is the one sequence in which hardly anything is actually shown. It's disgusting and horrible, but it's your mind that does most of the hard work. Pardon me whilst I go bleach my brain.
If you're still on board with A Serbian Film after that, the flick turns into a horror version of The Hangover. Milos awakens at home, covered in blood and bruises. His family is missing and he has no memory of the past three days. This last quarter of the film is more standard thriller territory, although it does contain some of the movie's most shocking and cruel moments. From thereon in (massive spoiler) everyone gets raped. Some people get raped twice. A man gets skull-raped to death. Children get raped. Dead people get raped. It's the ultimate rape/revenge movie, I suppose. Although it can't be. Because the underlying point is that some acts of violence are so extreme that no revenge will do them justice.
There are messages buried beneath A Serbian Film's ugly surface. It's just a matter of whether you can bring yourself to look for them. It's a story of how the male sex, in the wrong hands, can be a weapon of horrific destruction. It's a story of the perversion of the family unit. It's probably a critique on torture movies. Although it uses torture too much itself to work as a critique of that. Also, I think director Srdjan Spasojevic just wanted to show some really sick torture. That's some calling card. There's an intelligence that makes me not hate this movie as much as I did I Spit On Your Grave, by the way. It's easily as horrible, but unlike that thunderous turd, A Serbian Film tempers its atrocities with emotion and thought.
A Serbian Film is in no way a film for everyone or anyone. I'm unsurprised at the massive uproar surrounding it, since it contains at least one of the most shocking moments I've ever seen. But also, I find myself slightly underwhelmed by it. Maybe I'm jaded or stupid, but aside from the obvious, I wasn't really sickened or tempted to switch off. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it either. It's a little too slick, a little too self-aware. Its explosive final act is too over the top to be taken seriously, bordering on self-parody. The vein of black humour that runs throughout keeps you aware that it is, after all, only a film.
Which is good. I want to be reminded that it's only a film. Only a Serbian Film.