First, I must warn you that if you’re easily offended or squeamish, please don’t read this post. Also, if you don’t want people spoiling a movie for you, please don’t read this post. I’m going to be talking about Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film (Srpski Film), which is due out Stateside in a very limited distribution. After screening at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, the film was picked up by a boutique distributor called Invincible Pictures that had plans to theatrically open the picture in the U.S.
I first heard about A Serbian Film from chatting with the horror master Stuart Gordon (Re-animator and From Beyond) in his Burbank office and I was immediately intrigued. Set in the titular Serbia, A Serbian Film tells the story of a retired porn star who gets tricked into making a snuff film by an “insane” director who wants to create “newborn” cinema. The second act of the film is a flashback after our protagonist comes home peeing out blood as he groggily retraces his steps and recollects his memory of being drugged and forced into various gruesome acts of sex and violence.
Distributors who went to the early market screenings were reported to have walked out of the theaters fainting or bumping into things. Some of the audience said that if they had known what they would be watching, they would have rather not watched the movie.
Besides being a horror film, A Serbian Film, according to the director, is an allegory that deals with the feelings of all the political and cultural discontents that Serbia has gone through in the past two decades.
Appropriately, A Serbian Film is a horror movie about humanity—family, pornography and murder. Perhaps the most protestable scene of all is toward the finale where the protagonist recalls that he has indeed been drugged to rape two bodies whose faces were covered. Guess who did he rape? His wife and his adolescent son.
A Serbian Film has clearly outdone Freud who coined the Oedipal Complex. Let’s face it… you know you’re not watching an ordinary (horror) film when the opening scene is an adolescent boy whose eyes are glued to the TV screen playing his dad’s porn. As the adults walk in, the wife turns off the television and DVD player and reprimands the dad for leaving his stash around.
“What’s the big deal?” asks the dad. “I watched porn at his age.”
“But not porn that his dad was in,” his wife snaps back.
Despite how conceptually perverse and horrific A Serbian Film is, it’s actually done with both class and style. Most sexuality and violence is implicit rather than explicit. The movie is at times graphic but it’s never gratuitous, quite unlike the Lars Von Trier’s near-pornographic Antichrist that I truly wished I had not watched if I had known that I had to see graphic, albeit fake, mutilations of sexual organs.
A Serbian Film is compelling and stylish, giving us a new direction of horror away from the homegrown junkyard of reboots and remakes. Perhaps one day America will catch on with the world that we’re so good at ignoring or subjugating.