A Serbian Film Review: Torture Porn, Anyone?

December 9, 2010 by  
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serbian300A SERBIAN FILM (18): On Limited Release Friday 10th December

In 2006 a friend invited me to a screening of Taxidermia, without either of us knowing the synopsis. Within half an hour a character had sodomised a slaughtered pig which was so viscerally portrayed I had to leave the building, a unique response in over twenty years of cinema attendance. Unfortunately, I entered A Serbian Film with the same degree of ignorance combined with having somehow evaded the notoriety it had already acquired (the production company forced to succumb to the guidelines of the BBFC in order to obtain an 18 certificate).

The synopsis, which is less a story and more a facilitator for several highly distressing scenes, concerns Milos, an aging porn star whose daily routine is a composite of downing whisky to subdue his sexual appetite, watching a catalogue of his former glories and dreaming of a brighter future with his wife and son. Approached by an ex-colleague on the basis of his ability to maintain an erection for hours (in the age of Viagra one would think finding such an actor would be equivalent to shooting fish in a barrel), Milos is persuaded to meet up with a mysterious entrepreneur who is willing to pay a life changing amount of money should he choose to participate in his ‘vision’; a supposedly revolutionary approach to pornography so far unexplored, its content specifically tailored for a secret client’s desires. The only contractual obligation is that the ‘narrative’ remains a mystery, the acts required to be performed delivered through an ear piece while armed security escort him from one scene of depravity to the next.

What may, to the lowest common denominator, sound like a titillating prospect reveals its gruesome heart early on in proceedings when his wife demands that Milos f**k her like “one of those poor girls you threw away like condoms”. Milos’s suppressed rage suddenly erupts, thrusting at his wife’s anus like a pneumatic drill. Considering the film is as utterly vacant as the form it proposes to criticise, it is ironic that the camera should linger on his wife’s face as she progresses from agonising pain to an all encompassing orgasm. The scene is intended to act as an example of the lack of authenticity between pornography and real life, sex with and without love but its editing betrays the director’s real intentions – to focus on the male perception of female pleasure.

The remainder of the film consists of the following; Milos killing a security guard by thrusting his erection into a gaping eye socket (an innovative form of homicide considering his gun chamber is empty); raping his own son; watching a man have sex with a literally newborn baby, abused within seconds of its deliverance; and beheading a woman chained to a bed for committing adultery against a Serbian war hero so that he can f**k her whilst she undergoes rigor mortis. It is in these scenes I imagine the BBFC cuts were made – how many more I wish they had*.

A Serbian Film is not only a sadistically concocted tale but one of the most intellectually vacuous concepts to have ever been committed to celluloid. Whilst its characters may rally against governmental corruption and the abhorrent state of humanity in general, the dialogue rings hollow, its own cast and crew willing to be as equally complicit in creating nightmares as those who create them in reality.

As an analysis or critique of pornography it also falls flat, managing to make even less of a point than Destricted which enlisted six filmmakers to make sexually explicit shorts for mainstream distribution. In one of the better segments Larry Clark interviews several young men who, having grown up with readily accessible pornography, now want to perform with a porn star – the wish granted to one ‘lucky’ interviewee towards the end, his life ambition to experiment with anal sex finally fulfilled.

A depressing and inexcusable work of ‘art’, A Serbian Film deserves no plaudits and should not be compared to the age of video nasties, many of the then banned films now accepted to be justifiable and intelligent attempts to push boundaries. A Serbian Film doesn’t push boundaries, it pushes buttons and all the wrong ones at once.

*The watchdog ordered four minutes of footage to be removed from the film (making it the most heavily censored movie to play the UK since 1994) as they were “too offensive”. After watching what they allowed into the final cut, we shudder to think what the removed scenes might have been like…

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