A Serbian Film:
Here's a movie that might require multiple viewings to figure it out: or maybe not. What's certain is few people will want to put in that kind of effort. For those of you who've been living in sunlight and doing things like keeping in touch with friends and family, you might not know that A Serbian Film is one of the latest and something-or-other-est in the gross-out, torture porn category of films kicked off by Hostel and Saw during more innocent times. Purportedly crafted under the guise of political allegory, A Serbian Film puts the porn before the torture, leaving audiences devastated and enraged. But have those audiences simply been caught up in the riot of a group experience? Will home viewers feel the same outrage? Or will things like editing and disconnect, (and maybe the ability to see things as they truly are) mean this is just another shock-show of dubious value?
Down on his luck Milos is an aging porn star with a small family to support, and seemingly little ambition to do anything with his life other than occasionally bring in some cash to keep said family off the street. His living quarters are stylish and fairly luxe, and his 10-year-old son has plenty of time to watch his dad's old movies - a great way for the old man to poetically teach his kid about masturbation, in one of many truly cringe-worthy sequences. Meanwhile, Milos' old co-star hooks him up with Vukmir, a wealthy filmmaker pushing the limits of porn. You guessed it, Milos is drawn out of retirement for one last gig which will put his family on easy street for life. (That's some high paying gig!) As any character from the movies will tell you, coming out of retirement for one last gig is tantamount to bungee jumping without the bungee, so yes, for Milos, things go Horribly Wrong.
You must now question yourself. Do you want to see A Serbian Film for its putative indictment of Serbian politics? (My quick summation: everyone gets screwed.) Do you want to see it for the atrocities presented? Or have you already seen so many of these types of movies that you just can't stop now? Whatever the case, you'll soon find that A Serbian Film is no Salo, it's not even as engaging as Hostel II.
Slickly produced, with high production values and portentous music, A Serbian Film leaves the human element at the door. Srđan Todorović certainly delivers an absolutely fearless performance as Milos, when he's raping and killing at least. At other times he's so blank-faced and world weary that it's really hard to feel any sympathy for him. The rest of the male cast, seems piped in from a cut-rate C.S.I. clone, almost play-acting at being cool and tough, but with seemingly nothing beyond the facade. (The less said about the role of women in the movie, the better.) We're even cheated out of a sense of peril through which we might be drawn into a deeper connection to the film. Milos' journey progresses straight from indignity and discomfort to post-facto revenge and a nasty, yet totally unforeseen surprise or two, like stops on a tour through hell.
All that is left are the shocks, about which many of you have previously read. This DVD edition from Invincible Pictures is released unrated, but not unedited, at 103-minutes length. Having not seen the unexpurgated cut, I can only rely on what I've read. Rest assured, though, that anyone interested in the infamous 'newborn porn' scene will have to rely on chopped up reaction shots that render the act incomprehensible to those who don't know what they should expect. Also, if you're interested in the most horrific thing Milos is made to do, you'll need to connect the dots, since that cruel reveal - one that's pretty vital to the entire movie - is cut as well. I'd reckon, though, that pretty much every other depraved act of sex, death and degradation is there to enjoy, and it's outrageous stuff. So outrageous in fact, and so disconnected from reality, that you just have to laugh. I'm guessing that's not what director Srđan Spasojević wants.
This 2.35:1 ratio presentation certainly looks great; well above its station as what should have been (to my thinking) a grubby, crummy looking little picture. The stylish ebony, white, and red color scheme is rich and deep. Images are crisp and sharp, every blood spatter is rendered in detail, and it's a little too easy to tell when you're looking at a rubber phallus, for what it's worth. It's a first rate visual presentation.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Audio in Serbian (with non-removable English subs) will have to do. Non-Serbian speakers probably won't have issue with the quality of dialog recording, which seems fine anyway. Screaming, grunting, and moaning are all loud and clear, with a nice dynamic range. The at-times very aggressive soundtrack (think Irreversible - which is clearly what the director was thinking) sounds great, too. However, those ominous lone-piano-in-an-empty-room parts, while well recorded, just sound goofy, they're amateurish overkill.
Coming in a standard sized keepcase with slipcover, this edition comes with no extras save Chapter Selections and a code for a Free Digital Download of the movie. (Try watching this one on the bus or airplane, kiddo!)
Srđan Spasojević's infamous shocker seems preoccupied with upping the ante set by directors like Eli Roth and Gaspar Noe. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to have Roth's dubious sense of humor or Noe's beautiful humanistic resignation. What he does have is baby rape, (cut from this release) snuff movies (in all their glory) and worse - all supposedly under the guise of political allegory. Symbolism this blunt is best left in a teenager's notebook, and movies that wish to ply their trade with atrocity at least should either leave you caring about the characters, or cheering with ghoulish glee. A Serbian Film misses on all counts, but if you have to see every 'most horrible movie ever' (guilty as charged) then Rent It with your eyes wide open.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com