SXSW Film Review: A Serbian Film
There is a good reason why this is called A Serbian Film: Only the Balkan nation of Serbia could produce this landmark of transgressive cinema. With the nation's terrible decadelong civil war a constant and unspoken subtext, former porn star Milosh (Todorovi´c) is lured back into the industry by enigmatic producer Vukmir (Trifunovi´c). Short of cash and intrigued by the suggestion of porn as art, he finds himself duped into a hell of depravity that would make Hieronymus Bosch blanch.
Stripped of its cultural context, this can seem like an sleazy exercise in graphically degrading sex, unconscionable violence, and exploitation for exploitation's stomach-churning sake. But forget Irréversible, forsake Martyrs, and forego Antichrist. A Serbian Film is a horrifying political allegory wrapped up in some of the most perturbing scenes ever caught on camera. Anyone going in expecting a gross-out horror will instead be simply disturbed. Its central themes - that a nation that underwent such war crimes with no real reckoning does not suddenly heal, and that a flawed good man can be remade as an irredeemable monster - are rightly sickening. It is unwatchable, but deliberately so, a cavalcade of human debasement and noxious, perverted violence meant only for those studying what war does to a culture. It is less a film and more a cathartic primal scream from a nation that endured and perpetrated untold atrocities. Self-defeating as it may well be, it is unbearable - but it's supposed to be.
A Serbian FilmNarrative Feature, SX Fantastic
D: Srdjan Spasojevi´c; with Sergej Trifunovi´c, Srdjan Todorovi´c, Ana Saki´c