Friday, May 13, 2011


The Serbian film A Serbian Film is violent porn about violent porn. There’s some suggestion that it’s also, subtextually, about the guilty agony that haunts the Serbian soul in the wake of the horrors & atrocities of the Milosevic era, but this comes out in hints & oblique references, on the margins of the movie, so to speak. At bottom, A Serbian Film is a cautionary Grand Guignol shocker about how commercial sex can turn into savagery.
The film, presented Friday & Saturday at Tempe’s MADCAP Theatres by the Midnite Movie Mamacita, centers on porn-movie stud Milos, played by Srdan Todorovic, who resembles a cross between the young Tim Roth & the very young Mickey Rourke. A little long in the tooth for the raunch game, Milos has retired to live quietly with his gorgeous wife (Jelena Gavrilovic) & young son, but, like a bank robber in a caper movie, he’s coaxed out of retirement by an old colleague for one last big score.

Bad move. The gig in question is a film produced by a manic, big-talking hustler called Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) who insists that he’s going to turn porn into art. He won’t tell Milos what the film’s about, but he makes him a financial offer he can’t refuse. A couple of days into the shoot, Milos finds himself drugged & participating in snuff, rape & other revolting outrages, including some involving, let’s just say, minors.

I’m not going to try to tell you that I’m too cool to be shocked by A Serbian Film, or that I “enjoyed” it in the usual sense of that word. It’s a sickeningly brutal story, & the brutality is by no means free of prurience.

But there’s also no denying that it’s an intelligently-structured, well-acted, gripping piece of work. For the first half-hour, before the depravities of Vukmir’s project become clear, it even has a certain joyless, cold-fish eroticism, and a chilly Balkan wit. As the story progresses, it becomes more fractured & dreamlike, but director & co-writer Srdan Spasojevic doesn’t use this as an excuse for lack of clarity or pace.

At a certain point, though, I hit the wall. I stopped caring about the fate of poor hapless Milos, & while I suppose I wanted to see the loathsome Vukmir punished, what I really wanted was for the movie to be over. In the last ten minutes or so, when the story tumbles over into a frenzied, blood-splattered massacre, it finally became impossible to take it seriously, & I found it a relief.


  1. When I saw this movie was coming I wondered whether you would write about it. It feels as if I've been reading about this movie forever. I'm still on the fence as to whether I want to actually see the thing or not. I already know so much about the flick that nothing is going to really surprise me (although knowing what the images will be and actually seeing them is admittedly completely different).

    The other night I sat through the remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and I got to thinking how difficult it is to make really trasgressive cinema anymore. By that I mean, something that really gets people up in arms on a pop cultural level. Maybe baby sex is the only way to do it, but even A SERBIAN FILM has only generated conversation within the film geek/blogosphere. I haven't read anything in the mainstream press about it, and if this movie isn't going to do it I don't know what would.

    Sadly, we are headed to Iowa for the week, which might be worse than enduring this flick, so I'll have to catch up with it on DVD. That's probably for the best. I can't imagine sitting through this with an audience.

  2. Yes, you're right, one of the pitfalls of transgressive art is that sooner or later, if it's any good (by which I mean effective), it becomes widely accepted, values & all, & you're no longer the cool transgressive artist. I didn't see the I Spit remake, but I have a feeling it couldn't have the ugly charge the original did.
    Re: Your Iowa crack: Ouch!