Pushing extremes doesn’t equate to intelligent discourse
Coming off a wave of notoriety – Westminster Council banned it from screening at FrightFest in August – A Serbian Filmrolls out a cavalcade of grotesquery under the label of grand political and social metaphor.
And yet director Srdjan Spasojevic’s insufferable effort isn’t being sold as a hardcore political statement: it’s being sold as a hardcore horror film, whose chief claim to fame is a scene in which a newborn baby is raped.
The BBFC demanded four minutes worth of shots be removed before passing it with an 18 certificate. By today’s standards that is extreme butchery. Is it really that dreadful? The answer is yes, but not in the way its director intends.
Spasojevic and co-writer Aleksandar Radivojevic garrotte us with their daft metaphor then wish the viewer embrace them as brave commentators. The whole movie has the curious odour of a conceptual art project made by attention-seeking misfits.
The point is to offend. The point is to cause revulsion. The major point, however, is to hoodwink you into thinking what you’re seeing is some brilliant howl against society and its ills. Pushing extremes doesn’t equate to intelligent discourse.
In being told beforehand we’re watching a cri de coeur about the rape of the Serbian people by its government it all feels a bit one-note. The fact the director released a statement of intent to the press, again, suggests exploitation cinema tactics.
It is rife with poorly executed satire and ever-increasing attempts at transgression. We’re treated to scenes of Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) – the star of the show – hacking off a woman’s head with a machete while screwing her and raping his own son.
The opening quarter threatens to be interesting with its mysterious set up. Milos, a retired porn star, is coaxed out of his home life idyll and asked to star in a new ‘arthouse porno’ for lots of money. Of course, it involves every taboo under the sun and slowly turns into a survival horror film of degeneracy and deepest sorrow.
In the hands of, say, Michael Haneke – who would have shown a little more restraint to maximise the discomfort – this story might have well worked. Indeed, it needs a clinical intellect and masterful filmmaker to offer more than shock aesthetics and empty-headed desires.
A Serbian Film will certainly polarise opinion and spark debate given its lurid content. But describing it as intelligent and powerful is quite simply false advertising.
Banned by Westminster Council!
The filth! The fury! The boredom. The stupidity.
Pseudo-intellectual claptrap at its very worst.