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A Serbian Film(2010)
Milos is a former porn star who is down on his luck financially. When he receives a call from his long-time movie actress partner, Layla, he welcomes her call. Apparently she's heard that a new film director wants to hire Milos to star in his "artistically-designed" porn film for a very generous price. He is easily lured form his semi-retirement by the lucrative offer, agreeing to meet the director in an isolated mansion. As the filming progresses, Milo begins to suspect that the director's intentions may be darker than mere pornography. As the film begins to devolve into a horrifically violent production, Milos finds escape may not be an option.
For more about A Serbian Film and the A Serbian Film Blu-ray release, see A Serbian Film Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 1.5 out of 5.
Starring: Srđan Todorović
Director: Srđan Spasojević
» See full cast & crew
A Serbian Film Blu-ray Review
Allegory my a**.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 8, 2011
There's only so far high minded rhetoric can take you, and Srđan Spasojević's perhaps (perhaps) believable insistence that his A Serbian Film is an allegorical indictment of the horrors the Serbian people have suffered at the hands of a "monolithic," abusive government only goes so far to make this evidently intentionally disgusting film understandable. It can never be palatable under any circumstances and it similarly can't be dressed up and/or toned down with any strategy of apology, supposed context, or other exegetical methods. A Serbian Film has been banned in a large number of countries, and I can't say I'm that upset about it. I don't take that position lightly. There's no finer freedom than that enjoyed by artists seeking to express themselves. I may disagree with supposed creative types who drown crucifixes in urine and the like, but shock tactics like that seem almost quaint when thrust up against the horrors that await the viewer in A Serbian Film. Were some of the film's more hideous elements staged? No doubt. Does that make them any more acceptable? Certainly not. The film tells the story of a washed up porn star named Milo (Srđan Todorović) who has managed to more or less retire into a life of happy domesticity, with a beautiful, highly intelligent wife named Marija (Jelena Gavrilović), and an adorable little boy named Petar (the child playing this role is uncredited, something he may thank the Gods for as he grows up). The film opens with Petar evidently hypnotized by watching some of his father's old porn movies, and if you think that's a questionable scene, it pales in comparison to any number of horrors which are yet to come, including Petar himself involved in both a sadistic scene where the child is brandishing a mutant sized dildo and a much later scene where the child himself is the victim of sodomy. The basic plot (if it can be called that) has to do with Milo being lured back into his old profession with promises of untold riches if he agrees to participate in an "art film" about which he can know nothing. This premise may remind astute film historians of like-minded fare such as Dead of Winter, but in this case, Milo' ignorance doesn't lead to the amputation of a finger (as it does in the Mary Steenburgen film) but to the desecration of both male and female genitalia, among other shockingly gruesome images.
Even if Spasojević is given the benefit of the doubt about his motivations and aims in A Serbian Film, the question must still be asked: why did the ostensible subject matter (as opposed to what's actually on screen) have to be supposedly allegorized this way? Certainly degradation, corruption and moral bankruptcy are not new, and the controversy swirling around any number of previous films which depict these traits rages to this day (as evidenced once again with the fairly recent Blu-ray release of Salò or 120 Days of Sodom, to give just one salient example). But Spasojević's approach is so completely, ludicrously hyperbolic that any point the filmmaker is attempting to make is immediately drowned beneath the onslaught of grotesque imagery and frankly appalling violence and sexual depravity. From the standpoint of this reviewer, there is no way A Serbian Film's overkill (literally and figuratively) can be justified, whether or not one pins it to the recent sociopolitical turmoil in and around Serbia.
Eli Roth was both curiously vocal and curiously ambivalent about A Serbian Film. His comments and tweets about the film perhaps brought it greater worldwide renown, but in at least one interview even Roth talks about the film setting up an intriguing premise and then becoming little more than one ultra-violent scene after another. Roth compares A Serbian Film to Human Centipede, insofar that both films intentionally sought to push the envelope of what audiences could actually stomach. Roth avers that he found the disturbing imagery in A Serbian Film somehow easier to take than that in Human Centipede if only because he was certain that the scenes in A Serbian Film were faked. While that may be true some of time, I as the parent of two boys had to wonder how they faked the scene of a very young male slinging a gigantic dildo like it was part of a hula hoop. There are also a number of questionable dialogue scenes with this same child, including one where the kid talks about his growing feelings of sexuality after watching his Dad's porn, feelings he likens to little wheels inside his privates. He asks his father how to deal with the feelings and dear old Dad encourages him to follow the feelings with his hands. Now mind you this is not a prepubescent teen we're talking about, this is a very young boy. How were those scenes "faked"?
A Serbian Film has achieved whatever questionable cachet it's enjoying due mostly to it having been banned and censored in virtually every country where it's been shown. That of course brings out the voyeur in all of us, the craning neck syndrome that insists on seeing what we've been told we can't see. It's interesting to note how many mainstream critics, even those who gave A Serbian Film passing marks, said they never wanted to see the film again under any circumstances. If that's something that appeals to people, that indicates the film is some sort of masterpiece, I guess it's pointless to argue about it. I'm sure there's a potent allegory to be made about the atrocities Serbia has suffered over the past several decades, but my personal opinion is that A Serbian Film is quite simply too disgusting to ever capably make any kind of serious point.
For a somewhat divergent opinion on this film, I direct you to my colleague Svet Atanasov's review of the UK edition.
A Serbian Film Blu-ray, Video Quality
A Serbian Film is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Invincible Pictures with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. Shot with a digital RED camera, A Serbian Film boasts an incredibly strong transfer, which actually helps to make the film all the more repulsive. This is so filled with blood, gore and depravity that the sharpness (and typical smoothness redolent of the RED image) actually may make the film even more disturbing than it would normally be. Spasojević goes for an intentionally drab color palette most of the time here, with an emphasis on browns which are only broken up by the rust colored blood that dots so many scenes. The film does exhibit some crush issues in many of the dimly lit interior scenes, notably several in the bunker where the "art film" is being produced. Because of intentional desaturation and filtering, flesh tones are often pallid and other colors rarely pop vividly. But within the context of a heavily filtered RED image, this Blu-ray is a solid presentation which boasts impeccable clarity and sharpness.
A Serbian Film Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Serbian Film is presented on Blu-ray with its original Serbian track offered in an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. There's not much to report with regard to this soundtrack, as the film features fairly sporadic dialogue and lets its horrific images do most of the talking. Everything is well presented with the narrow confines of the 2.0 mix (the UK edition evidently sported a 5.1 surround mix). Dialogue is cleanly presented and the sound effects, which generally have to do with either violence or sexual activity (or frankly a combination of the two), is well rendered with strong fidelity.
A Serbian Film Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are included on this Blu-ray.
A Serbian Film Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The reigning question on our Forum devoted to A Serbian Film seems to be whether this is the uncut version. While the box lists a 103 minute running time, it actually clocks in at 1:41:57, i.e., just short of 102 minutes. That said, from I can glean from online commentary, this version has at least most of the incredibly questionable footage intact. The fact that this subject is what is deemed most pressing about A Serbian Film simply makes my point for me, albeit probably unintentionally. Those who will want to see this film seemingly couldn't care less about any ostensible allegorical content, content the film's director insists is its sole reason for being so exploitative. Some people at least are in it for the shock value, and that's it. For those people, have at it. There's certainly no more shocking film available than this one. For those wanting some meaning behind the horror, keep on looking.
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A Serbian Film Blu-ray, News and Updates
• A Serbian Film Blu-ray in October - July 30, 2011
Independent distributors Invincible Pictures have revealed that they are planning to release on Blu-ray Srdjan Spasojevic's highly controversial Srpski film a.k.a A Serbian Film (2010). Technical specs and special features are yet to be announced, but the preliminary ...
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