A Serbian Film

Dir: Srdjan Spasojevic
Star: Sergej Trifunovic, Srdan Todorovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Slobodan Bestic

Maybe it's the fact that I'd heard so much about how "disturbing" and "shocking" this was before watching it, making more forewarned and forearmed. But I can't honestly say I was particularly disturbed or shocked. It certainly pushes the envelope, make no mistake about that, in its depiction of retired porn star Milos (Trifunovic), bribed out of retirement by an experimental film-maker, Vukmir (Todorovic), for "one last film," only to be led incessantly, further down the rabbit-hole into depravity beyond his wildest nightmares. Which probably means beyond your wildest nightmares as well, with a couple of scenes - involving a machete and a pregnant woman respectively - that appear to have come out of a beer-fuelled discussion down the pub, about "What's the sickest thing you can come up with?" Quite how you get from there, to an alleged subtext as a critique of Serbia's domestic struggles and post-dissolution local cinema, I'm not so certain.

That said, I liked the performances, particularly Trifunovic as a man who would rather escape his past, but is condemned to repeat it, simply because the one marketable skill he possesses, involves his penis. In the first half, you can see him almost constantly rebelling against the demands of his employer, yet getting reeled in, little by little, as he loses the psychological battle. It's a fascinating struggle, and rather more interesting than the set-pieces; while those may be the moments that stick in the mind, they feel like the 21st-century equivalent of Divine eating dog shit. As such, it's not clear whether director Spasojevic is genuine in his intentions or not, and that weakens the overall impact. Another issue is the drug-fuelled gap in the middle, where Milos then conveniently discovers a stash of videotapes depicting the most horrible depravities in which he engaged. While it's these that push him over the edge, it would seem to allow him a 'get out of jail' card for any culpability, which would have deepened the personal impact. Bottom line: once you get beyond the hype, it's an interesting but flawed concept, and is certainly no Videodrome.

[November 2013]

Holiday in Serbia
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