Saturday, November 12, 2011

DVD Review: A Serbian Film (Srpski Film)

Text © Richard Gary / FFanzeen, 2011
Images from the Internet

A Serbian Film: Unrated Version
Produced and directed by Srdjan Spasojevic
Invincible Pictures, 2010
103 minutes, USD $19.95

”It’s dangerous, Max…it’s more – how can I say – more political than that… It has something you don’t have, Max. It has a philosophy, and that’s what makes it dangerous.”
– Marsha, in Videodrome

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome should almost be a prerequisite for watching this film from the former Yugoslavia. They both deal with the issue of violence through media with a political bent. But Videodrome only brushes where Srpski Film takes off.

We are introduced to retired porn star Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), whose specialties were having a bit of a violent streak and being fatigueless. But now he has a (understanding) wife, Marija (Jelena Gavrilovic) and a six-year-old son. He is struggling to not only survive financially, but part of him misses the action, though he won’t admit it to himself.

Asked to come back for just one film by an ex-co-star, Lejla (Katarina Zutic), he is hesitant, but the promise of a big paycheck and “the itch” calls him. With Marija’s blessing, he meets with the director, Vulkmir (Sergei Trifunovic), who states that he wants Milos to just be himself, and so refuses to let him know what the film is about. Reluctantly, Milos agrees. And you just know it’s not going to end well.

Now, the North American audience has spent years watching graphically violent and disturbing films like Wolf Creek, and the Hostel and Saw franchises. This genre has come to been labeled by the term “torture porn.” Well, A Serbian Film pushes the scale ever further toward the latter. The most graphically and disturbing scene that comes to mind in previous films I have seen is the fire extinguisher incident from Irreversible, but parts of this one if not beat it, come thisclose.

Slowly but surely, through his own dark nature and a bit of an injected “sex drug” (a comment on Viagra or Calais?), Milos doesn’t just lose whatever is left of his moral compass, he becomes the pawn in a game that is completely out of his control as he suffers blackouts, only to find out later through videos and flashbacks just what kind of sick actions he’s been in the middle of performing.

No, I won’t go into detail, but there is a point to it all. Truthfully, I’m not aware of much Serbian history or politics, so a great deal of the context is stripped away leaving mostly the violence and sex (sometimes graphic, landing somewhere between softcore and hardcore in various degrees, including an erect penis, though I’m assuming it is a prosthetic, considering the length), without the point of a good deal of it.

I do get some of it, though, such as when Milos is wandering around Belgrade in a sex-drug-induced fog, and seeing all different forms of acceptable sexually suggestiveness, such as lingerie billboards, and magazines at a deli.

But it is pretty obvious that the film has, as posited at the beginning, a philosophy. It’s not simply violence for violence sake, especially when viewed in the Serbian historical perspective, but as I said, the message is hazy to one (e.g., me) unfamiliar with the background.

On YouTube, you can find lots of videos of people watchg the film, the most I've seen since the infamous two women and the cup reactions.

How far can one man go into the depths of his own depravity? And who is there to push him over that line? And to what purpose? The answer lay at the end of the film, but it’s not a pretty picture, both figuratively and literally, and as I said and which is pretty obvious, it does not end well for many. Does art imitate life/politics?

Does politics/life imitate art? Where does art begin and politics end, and vice versa? These are chicken-and-egg questions that the film addresses. Whether they answer it or not seems unimportant since, as one philosophy states, the question is as – if not more – important than the question.

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