Newest Review: ... on to, in order to continue to push the boundaries and shock us further? The answer is that they make up a completely new genre, allowi... more
Almost Lives up to the Hype...
A Serbian Film (DVD)
Member Name: Drewster_Rooster
A Serbian Film (DVD)
Advantages: Strong Acting, Brutal, Bold, Unflinching
Disadvantages: Extremely Graphic, Likely to Offend, Censored release
A review of the cut version of the film currently available to buy in the UK. Please be aware that this contains descriptions and discussions that are of an adult nature, if such subject matters are likely to offend you then please do not read any further. To gain a BBFC certificate rating over 4 minutes of footage had to be removed from the film before it could be released in the UK thus giving the film the rather dubious accolade of being the most cut release in 30 years.
Retired Porn actor Milos has given up his acting career and now lives with his wife and young son in Serbia. Getting on in years and no longer having a regular income the money he made from his films is dwindling fast, his son needs money for singing lessons and Milos wants to provide for his family. Out of the blue he is approached by a former colleague and friend Layla who has a proposition for him, someone she knows wants to make a different kind of porn film and Milos renowned as once being the best in the business is wanted as the star. Tempted by the proposition he agrees to a meeting with the film's director - Vukmir- to discuss the film but is concerned to find out that there is no script, instead the director's vision of the film is all about capturing Milos reaction to what he is faced with. Reluctantly deciding that the money is just too good to turn down he agrees to star in the film however once filming begins and Milo is given an earpiece to receive his directions he soon realises that this isn't going to be any ordinary porn film...
Occasionally there comes along a film that gets people talking and even before 'A Serbian Film' had hit the UK there was talk that this was _the_ film any horror fan should see. I couldn't avoid the speculation around the film or the controversies of what was apparently depicted on the horror websites I visited and eager to see what all the fuss was about I spent some time reading the write-ups that appeared on-line from people who had seen the film never expecting it to be released in any form in the UK. Reminiscent of the furore surrounding the video-nasties of the early 80's 'A Serbian Film' had certainly courted controversy, "The most extreme horror film ever!", some declared, "Too Shocking to be seen!" said others yet amazingly the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) passed the film to be released for retail and rental earlier this month albeit in a heavily cut form, so lights off, sound turned up and cushion to hide behind at the ready I settled down to watch the 'most controversial film ever' last night and to my astonishment it _almost_ lived up to the hype.
The type of film this actually is is only ever going to appeal to a minority of people and casual horror film watchers will quite rightly be appalled at the events that take place on screen, however, I would say that if you can get past the extreme visuals in the film and view it as the director intended then this could be described as a film with a message. It is a social commentary which dips a dirty toe into the world of a small niche of society who demand _real_ violence and are willing to pay to see it, the director in the film has an audience to satisfy and essentially he is filming a 'snuff' film, except the actor hired to play the leading man doesn't know it and the deeper he goes into this world the harder it is for him to get out of it. There are obvious parallels from what we are presented with in the film and what we as the audience are actually doing by watching it in the first place, whilst Milos is the unwilling star of his own film and doesn't know what is going to happen next we as the owners of this DVD/Blu-Ray don't know what is going to happen either so are paying to see Milos' reaction. It struck me that there are obvious similarities between Spasojevic's fictional director Vukmir and of Spasojevic himself in that they are both providing what their audience demands and for these 'film within a film' elements that feature during the latter stages of the film this is really quite clever and thought provoking.
Of course many people won't actually see the parallels and will focus on the extreme nature of the film which more than lives up to the disgust it seems to have provoked. The film is ultra-violent at times and plays out with brutal ferocity although for the most part isn't anything that we haven't seen before in other recent extreme cinema releases, what causes the most controversy though and what gave the BBFC the most trouble when passing the film was the extreme accounts of sexual violence contained and anyone who is familiar with how the BBFC operates will know that there are some things that just cannot be shown on film as far as the censors are concerned.
===The wrong type of violence===
Blood and guts are usually ok, films such as Hostel and Irreversible pushed the tolerance levels of horror fans and pretty much desensitised us to extreme accounts of violence. Indeed the term 'torture porn' summed up a whole sub-genre of horror films from recent years but never before have I seen a BBFC passed film feature as much sexual violence as A Serbian Film. This is the last taboo to be broken and even in its cut form there are unflinching scenes of rape and even necrophilia contained in the films running time, the very fact that the 'star' of the film is portrayed as a porn actor should alert you to the fact that both male and female nudity is explicitly shown. I don't want to go into too much detail as to what the film actually contains as they are not only spoilers but are also unnecessary in this review all I would say is that you do need to have a strong stomach and a firm grip on reality to be able to realise that what you are watching _is_ a work of fiction even if it is still very hard to actually see so realistically presented.
I'm actually quite impressed at the BBFC for giving us the opportunity to see this film as they have been known in the past to issue outright bans of films they consider too shocking to see. As an adult I have always maintained that I, as anyone else, should have the right to see any film I want so long as it is fictional regardless of its content. I accept that A Serbian Film won't be to everyone's taste and I wouldn't expect it to be however giving the film a certificate and releasing it to the general public finally means that there is a shift in how the censors operate and I applaud them for allowing us to make our own choices in what we want to watch. Naturally the film is an 18 rating and earns this easily, it isn't mainstream and would have probably gone unnoticed had it not been the subject of so much controversy before its release, the 'extreme' parts make up very little of the film in all honesty but will undoubtedly be what the film ends up being infamous for which is a shame actually as overall there is plenty to admire about the film as a whole.
The running time and pacing is perfectly pitched with the first hour or so dedicated to introducing us to Milo and setting up the events that are to follow. It's only in the last 30 or 40 minutes when the brutality kicks in and the tension mounts that it becomes uncomfortable to watch and rather than bombarding us with scene after scene of extreme violence even these are relatively few and far between, it's what they actually _are_ which is far more shocking and unexpected rather than how often they appear. There are no familiar faces in the film and you will not know any of the actors (unless of course you are a follower of Serbian cinema) so because you don't know them and the depictions are so graphic there is a real sense that this may not be a fictional film after all. The dialogue is Croation and the film features English subtitles and there is hardness and grittiness to the cinematography, bleak is a good description of how the film is portrayed, greys and blues make up most of the palette which naturally makes a good contrast to the bright reds of the blood that is spilled. The latter stages of the film are brutal and unflinching and the ending in keeping with what you have already witnessed and if nothing else will be a film that you will remember for a long time after the credits have rolled. It isn't really a film to 'enjoy' as such and many will find no redeeming qualities in it whatsoever, for me it was a film to experience and to know that I have seen.
Was it the most shocking film ever? Well no, not really. It is tough going in places and features some things I never thought would be allowed to be shown in a film but it wasn't _that_ shocking and whilst I can see what all the fuss was about I have seen worse in other films. Would I recommend it? Yes I would, so long as you fully know what you are letting yourself in for before switching it on, read other reviews would be my advice if you are unsure if this is something that would be suitable for you. Chances are you will already be aware of the film if you are considering watching it anyway as outside of horror circles this is pretty much an unknown film and as already stated would never be considered mainstream. My only real criticism is that the film is cut and that there are over 4 minutes of footage that was unable to be included in this release, I would watch the film again but would wait for the complete film to be released and buy the film again in its uncut format.
A Serbian Film is available to buy online from amazon.co.uk in Blu-Ray format for £12.93; this is the version of the film I own and the one that I would recommend if you have a Blu-Ray player The DVD is available for a little under £11.00 so not that much different in terms of price. The fact that it is cut means that I am deducting a star from my rating but overall for actually delivering a film which had it not been cut would have lived up to its hype I'm awarding an excellent 4 star rating and had it been released uncut then it would have been 5 stars from me. It's not going to be for everyone and even some horror fans will be deeply disturbed by what they see here however if you can get past the distressing imagery and actually think about what the film is really about then there is plenty to gain from giving this an hour and a half's worth of your time.
Recommended. Thanks for reading my review, please note that this is also on ciao under my username
Summary: A Serbian Film or "Srpski film" to give it it's Serbian title