Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Serbian Film and Thoughts from The Berkeley Blazer

2 of 5 viewers "Liked" "A Serbian Film" (2010, Serbia)
Here's what the citizens of the Overlook Theatre had to say:

Huntress - "This movie made me cringe, a lot. But the surreal, surprising story kept me watching." - 3 Stars

The Berkeley Blazer - "If this is about Serbia, it's awful. If this is about voyeurism and pornography, it's awful. If it's about existential nothingness, it's awful. The worst thing to come out of Serbia since Slobodon Milosevic." - 1 Star

Lord Battle - " This film is definitely not what you think it is but with a hero that's a porn star turned family man you can expect the story to be anything but boring." - 3 1/2 Stars

The Great Hornito - "The story was pretty cool but it was very unbelievable also there were way to many sex violence scenes for my taste. It seems like the director was trying to hard to offend the audience instead of trying to make a good, watchable movie." - 2 Stars

Ice Giant - "It went for shock value and it got it but was not nearly as shocking as it was made out to be. It kept me entertained but I was expecting a lot more." - 2 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
A person who reads my reviews might rightly glean that I have an obvious penchant for that which is, or attempts to be, lofty or precious in cinema.  A film that honestly attempts to comment on or create a challenging cosmology, or delineate a complex set of ideas or philosophical points, even if it fails utterly, wins brownie points from me as long as I get the impression that the attempt was genuine and not just a vain attempt at “art”.  Conversely, while I am not a connoisseur of exploitation and genre films, I certainly enjoy the hell out of them on a regular basis.   Even the blatantly pornographic celebration of morbid sexual violence that was The Sinful Dwarf did not evoke any sort or moral indignation, only amused enjoyment of it’s black humor, cartoonish extremes and attempts to provoke revulsion.  Writing the very words “moral indignation” in an article about a movie seems awkward and alien to me.

That preamble out of the way, I can attest that A Serbian Film is an artistically and ethically bankrupt piece of trash, whose pseudo-intellectual attempts to justify it’s own ceaseless train of amateurishly shot scenes banally celebrating the sexual and physical violence directed at  woman, children, and men only further justify it’s condemnation.  This film, as any film that doesn’t actually hurt anyone, should not be censored or banned from distribution. It should, however, be derided and dammed by any thoughtful person who watches it.  

And yet, no one scene on its own ever bothered me.  During some of the most particularly taboo or brutal scenes I even chucked.  What is disturbing here is the relentlessness and meaninglessness of the later part of the movie that neither the narrative structure nor the filmmakers cinematic language bother to address.  This film would have worked perhaps as an over the top exploitation movie; instead it is a cynical attempt by subpar filmmakers to get attention using snuff-mimikry while simultaneously trying to justify this with their flaccid overtures toward some type of intellectual substance and/or social commentary.  

The film’s beginning presents itself as a promising piece of dark humor:  the protagonist is a male porn idol whose legendary work is known to transcend its genre and “turn porn into art”.  The film throws in various nods to the state of Serbia as a country and gives lip service to some themes of the soul of the country, questions of high art, pornography, and cinema, blah blah blah and the viewer is warned through various context clues that the film will turn macabre, probably disturbingly and graphically so.  Then about halfway through, when the tone becomes “serious”, the viewer is subjected to a train of scenes of murder, torture, and shock tactics that are relentless and serve no purpose.  A woman is beheaded, and while the protagonist is fucking her headless corpse we see blood spurt from the neck wound; uteruses are penetrated while birth is being given; all of this presented without any sort of irony or silliness, but neither are these scenes treated with any seriousness or gravity.  The duration of each of these travesties serve no purpose, and after all the action is over there is no end purpose or insight, not even toward “the banality of evil”. Critiques that the film is exposing the meaninglessness of pornography or illuminating the broken soul of Serbia are nothing but disingenuous drivel that even an angsty 15 year old postmodernist-existentialist wouldn't stoop to.  This film cannot be considered as having artistic merit simply because it is provocative, and I dare anyone to defend it on those grounds.  
- The Berkeley Blazer

*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not effect the rating.


  1. The only uncut release of A SERBIAN FILM is the Swedish/Finnish version, plus a German version. It is cut in both UK and the US.

  2. I'll definitely have to hunt a copy down, thank you for sharing that!

  3. Yeah , but I think you are mistaken that the makers have given that much serious meaning to the film . If you read closely to what they are actually saying in their statements , you will see that the film is meant as a sort of comedy and is meant to tick you off . They are pissed off that every movie made in Serbia in the last 10 years has been about war criminals , war victims , period pieces and other "politically correct" topics sponsored by the European Union and the West . This film is their middle finger to that .

    1. I wish I would have known this before I spent 2 hours arguing after the screening.

      And I think I found a good video of the director explaining his film.