So.. i finally got around to "A Serbian Film"

And i must say.. i'm a touch conflicted about this movie.

It is probably THE most thematically and visually disturbing film i have ever seen, and it certainly pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable.

If you have seen it, or heard about it, you will know what i mean, and if you have never heard of the film, well, if your squeamish or sensitive then don't even read a synopsis.

I've watched messed up, over the top, out there exploitation films. I've seen some pretty messed up porn. I've sat through episodes of Faces of Death (albeit unhappily).. and even over all these things, it takes the cake of hard to stomach.

I've read a lot of comments about this film - most of which deplore it as unnecessary, cheap, shock value at it's worst etc etc.

And i can certainly see the point people are making.. it could certainly be all those things and more. Which is where my conflicting views on it lie.

It is all of the above... however, i don't think that film could have had the same emotional impact without the obscenely (and i don't use that word lightly; this film IS obscene) graphic elements and themes.

I was devastated by the turns the story took, and simultaneously hated the main character, yet empathized with him at the same time. I honestly don't think i would have had such strong emotions or been as engaged by the character arcs as i was without the obscene shock value scenes.

So gods... it hurt watching it. It's the first film I've ever needed a break from to rest my nerves and stomach, but i'm glad i sat through it, because i found the story to be quite engrossing and the ending to fit nicely and wrap up the characters arcs well...

If you've seen it fellow Escapists, what are your thoughts on this film?

Unnecessary? Brilliant? Just average exploitation?

I'm genuinely curious about others experiences with this film, and curious about whether or not I am completely psychotic for being able to sit through it.

I have the same thoughts as you! Though it hurt watching it, and gods the shocking scenes were awful, I too found the story quite engrossing but you are right, it wouldn't have had that effect on me if it weren't for those shock value scenes. So don't worry, you aren't completely psychotic!

Well that is good to know that i'm not the only one conflicted about this movie. Thanks lol

I feel no conflict with this movie the "Newborn porn" scene and the final act with his son really make it irredeemable for me. Also the scene at the very end was just evil and unnecessary. It brought to mind that scene from the Simpsons where a tearful ralph wiggum says "stop he's already dead".

I agree the story is interesting in its way, but some of the scenes especially the former i mentioned and the last scene didn't need to exist at all.

Darks63:
I feel no conflict with this movie the "Newborn porn" scene and the final act with his son really make it irredeemable for me. Also the scene at the very end was just evil and unnecessary. It brought to mind that scene from the Simpsons where a tearful ralph wiggum says "stop he's already dead".

I agree the story is interesting in its way, but some of the scenes especially the former i mentioned and the last scene didn't need to exist at all.

Yeah its particularly the newborn scene which is the real pivot point. I'm surprised, if that scene made it so irredeemable to you though, that you sat through another hour of film.

The scene with his son, i thought, although horrific, was vital to the arc.. the tipping point of his sanity. All of it culminating in that scene... pushing him over the edge completely. I don't think anything else could have made us feel that insanity and wretchedness and anger as profoundly.

And the final scene, well.. yeah, in some ways i think it was a great way to show the complete futility of trying to be the lesser evil, but in a way, it if the very last 15 seconds didn't happen, and it ended with the gunshot... well.. it would have made a kind of bittersweet ending to it all..

Torn on that one too.

WWmelb:
Yeah its particularly the newborn scene which is the real pivot point. I'm surprised, if that scene made it so irredeemable to you though, that you sat through another hour of film.

I decided to power through it since i rarely turn a movie off unless its really boring and this movie was anything but boring. Also this heard about this film and how horrific it was and i figured that that scene was as bad and as low as it could get

WWmelb:
The scene with his son, i thought, although horrific, was vital to the arc.. the tipping point of his sanity. All of it culminating in that scene... pushing him over the edge completely. I don't think anything else could have made us feel that insanity and wretchedness and anger as profoundly.

that why i didn't say it didn't need to exist it was the point where he realized there was no road back and it lead to the last scene of the movie

WWmelb:
And the final scene, well.. yeah, in some ways i think it was a great way to show the complete futility of trying to be the lesser evil, but in a way, it if the very last 15 seconds didn't happen, and it ended with the gunshot... well.. it would have made a kind of bittersweet ending to it all..

Torn on that one too.

The last scene was just a mean spirited stab at the audience the pact act the end was a good bookend that last part wasn't needed to drive home the point any harder.

This movie is reprehensible garbage and I say that as someone that generally loves movies that explore dark themes. However, this movie doesn't explore any dark themes, instead it just wallows in it's own excess of violence and torture. Everything about this movie is mean spirited and absolutely nihilistic, but there's not point to any of it other than being edgy and shocking. There's no catharsis at the end of the movie, no hidden meaning or depth. It starts off ugly and cruel, and it stays that way until the very end.

There are no likable characters. I never sympathized with the lead as I thought most of his actions weren't particularly logical, but just served the plot to get him deeper into the situation until he was finally trapped in it and forced to drown in the shit that makes up most of the movie. All the other characters are just mean spirited props with little to no personality other than being a victim or a torturer. There is no one to like, no one to root for, nothing to care about.

And now comes the point where someone is going to say you're not meant to like the movie. And to the I say fuck that noise. I'm perfectly okay with a movie that makes me uncomfortable to watch if it also has a point, something to make me think and feel something other than disgust. This movie offers nothing of the sort. And anything it does try to say should be completely obvious to anyone, and yet the movie beats you over the head with it like it thinks the audience is fucking idiot.

So yeah, no conflict for me this movie is trash that never deserved to see the light of day.

ItouKaiji:
This movie is reprehensible garbage and I say that as someone that generally loves movies that explore dark themes. However, this movie doesn't explore any dark themes, instead it just wallows in it's own excess of violence and torture. Everything about this movie is mean spirited and absolutely nihilistic, but there's not point to any of it other than being edgy and shocking. There's no catharsis at the end of the movie, no hidden meaning or depth. It starts off ugly and cruel, and it stays that way until the very end.

There are no likable characters. I never sympathized with the lead as I thought most of his actions weren't particularly logical, but just served the plot to get him deeper into the situation until he was finally trapped in it and forced to drown in the shit that makes up most of the movie. All the other characters are just mean spirited props with little to no personality other than being a victim or a torturer. There is no one to like, no one to root for, nothing to care about.

And now comes the point where someone is going to say you're not meant to like the movie. And to the I say fuck that noise. I'm perfectly okay with a movie that makes me uncomfortable to watch if it also has a point, something to make me think and feel something other than disgust. This movie offers nothing of the sort. And anything it does try to say should be completely obvious to anyone, and yet the movie beats you over the head with it like it thinks the audience is fucking idiot.

So yeah, no conflict for me this movie is trash that never deserved to see the light of day.

That is the general view of the film that i had come across so far, and i don't thin it is invalid at all, and can certainly understand that point of view.

If it hadn't affected me in a way that i could feel the pain and disgust and anger and insanity of the main character, basically empathize (not sympathize, i had no real sympathy for him) with him, then i would agree. But it did. I felt what he felt while watching it, which is something not many films do.

I also try and take into account i guess that this film is from a very different culture to my own.

I would love to see responses from people in Serbia, or even eastern Europe in general to see how it is perceived in a different culture to my own.

Darks63:
The last scene was just a mean spirited stab at the audience the pact act the end was a good bookend that last part wasn't needed to drive home the point any harder.

Yeah, the more the i think about it, the more i tend to agree with you on that part. The suicide pact would have made a better bookend, from my cultural point of view anyways.

for a film that wanted to demonstrate how cheap life was in eastern europe and in particular serbia they certainly achieved what they set out to do. i made it around half way and just looked up the rest of the plot on wiki. this is coming from someone who normally has no issue with the worst films made lists but yeah that one is just plain horrid and nasty

wombat_of_war:
for a film that wanted to demonstrate how cheap life was in eastern europe and in particular serbia they certainly achieved what they set out to do. i made it around half way and just looked up the rest of the plot on wiki. this is coming from someone who normally has no issue with the worst films made lists but yeah that one is just plain horrid and nasty

i struggled to get through it. it was physically painful for me, watched it over 4 different sessions because i couldn't take all of it in one hit.

yes, horrid and nasty it certainly was.

I haven't seen it, but it sound like my piece of pie. I remember reading the wiki on the story, I know of most of what will happen, but I want to see it in action. I also just looked up that Faces of Death video you mentioned. I will watch that as well. Call me sadistic, but I am the type of person who frequents the best gore website when he's bored. So watching people die or brutalize each other is nothing new to my palate.

Captcha: face the music

...Captcha likes them as well it seems.

Well from what I heard the director went on record in saying the movie was basically a response to the heavy censorship laws they have in Serbia.

Here is a good analysis of the movie

Zoe Castillo:
Well from what I heard the director went on record in saying the movie was basically a response to the heavy censorship laws they have in Serbia.

Here is a good analysis of the movie

I really liked that analysis video.. i like smrt people that say what i can't lol

Wraith:
I haven't seen it, but it sound like my piece of pie. I remember reading the wiki on the story, I know of most of what will happen, but I want to see it in action. I also just looked up that Faces of Death video you mentioned. I will watch that as well. Call me sadistic, but I am the type of person who frequents the best gore website when he's bored. So watching people die or brutalize each other is nothing new to my palate.

Captcha: face the music

...Captcha likes them as well it seems.

I will be worried if you find the imagery in this film enjoyable, however, please come back and post and let me know your thoughts if/when you sit through it.

Zoe Castillo:
Well from what I heard the director went on record in saying the movie was basically a response to the heavy censorship laws they have in Serbia.

Here is a good analysis of the movie

Honestly, I don't the video is as much a defense of the film as it is a condemnation of censorship being applied to the film, which is a fair argument to have, but doesn't do much for the merits of the film itself. The director wanting this film to be a challenge of censorship is all fine and well, but there are a lot of ways to go about challenging censorship and this movie goes to an extreme ugliness that takes away any chance at subtlety in it's message. It's the kind of bull in a china shop approach that just ends up destroying everything around it. As far as censorship goes, I think censorship is bullshit in any form and shouldn't be applied to something even as ugly as this movie because it really just puts a band aid on the real issue.

As for the commentary itself. I completely reject the idea that the main character is in any way a representation of the common man. He comes with far too much baggage for the audience to ever properly project themselves into his situation or really identify with him. I'll concede he may have been at an attempt at being representation of the common man, but if that's the case then the movie falls flat on it's face right from the outset, as his mindset, attitudes and action don't feel organic or identifiable, instead he's a man with a defined personality put into a very specific situation which doesn't really work for some kind of sweeping metaphor. The same goes from the microcosm that the guy mentions in the commentary. The exploitative power structure that the film sets out is so overblown as to be unidentifiable to most viewers. The villains here are cartoonish in their motives and their extreme actions not making for a good condemnation of the power structure unless one concedes that those in power are akin to Saturday morning cartoon villains that want to see the world burn for the hell of it. On both these points the film fails to create the dynamic that is talked about in the video to my view. As I said previous there are no other characters in the film, they don't really fall neatly into place in the social structure of the metaphor, but come across as plot devices to perpetuate the ugly cruelty that casts its pall over the entire movie. The characters tend to just get shoved around as the plot dictates rather than in any recognizable way that this so called microcosm of society would predict.

Once again while depicting sex as violence and a tool of domination isn't a new concept I can't help feel this movie wields that tool in the most blunt and obvious fashion, and yet it wallows in the excess, jamming the views nose into like a puppy that has pissed on the carpet. It goes way over board with it's depiction of the loss of innocence through the exploitation of the children or even babies. It's pretty weak defense that having a baby being violated is to show the loss of innocence at the earliest stage, instead this is where movie goes into trying to be shocking and edgy, and loses what little merit it may have had. The director really needed to show some restraint here, more than just not explicitly showing everything, he goes to such excessive lengths that point of it kind of gets lost in the disgust generated by the act itself. And it's also there where I think the comparison to Salo is an interesting one. That's another movie that is uncomfortable to watch, but it does so while showing some restraint that makes it a better film for it. A Serbian Film could have taken some lesson from Salo in this regard. As I think that whatever message is supposed to be coming across is completely lost in the sheer excess. Less is sometimes more, especially when you are trying to make a point. If this was indeed the intention of A Serbian film then once again I think it fails in it's mission with it's blunt and clumsy handling of the subject matter.

And that's the key problem here. The ugliness of the film is so pervasive that any other attempt at message or metaphor is actually lost. The movie is so single minded in it's relentless depiction of the torture and violence that it loses a lot of it's context. And then to carry to the extreme that it does at the end just puts the last nail in this movie's attempt to be any kind of commentary. Now maybe if I was Serbian I would feel differently about it, but I think the ugliness of this movie goes far beyond ethnic boundaries and strikes an offense at human dignity itself, but not in a way that says anything grand, not in a way that makes one think, and certainly not in a way that's going create any kind of useful debate.

So going back to what I said originally, I think this movie is trash, but even being kind, it's trash that fails completely at it's aims. If indeed that were the intentions of the director in the first place and not just a weak defense of a film that aims at the lowest common denominator in an attempt to make a buck off it's shock value.

I have not seen the movie, and I doubt I ever will, but Oancitizen had a very insightful episode of Brows Held High on it.

Here's his review.

Well coming from the point of view of someone who loves plots about insanity and people who dig themselves further into a bad situation and I also love Final Destination because it is bad actors being murdered without remorse. (hey, the 2nd film was fun, shut up!) I read the synopsis of a Serbian Film... I was almost sick...

Wraith:
I haven't seen it, but it sound like my piece of pie. I remember reading the wiki on the story, I know of most of what will happen, but I want to see it in action. I also just looked up that Faces of Death video you mentioned. I will watch that as well. Call me sadistic, but I am the type of person who frequents the best gore website when he's bored. So watching people die or brutalize each other is nothing new to my palate.

Captcha: face the music

...Captcha likes them as well it seems.

If you like the disturbing films then might i suggest Dead Girl its about zombie rape enjoy.

Dr. Cakey:
I have not seen the movie, and I doubt I ever will, but Oancitizen had a very insightful episode of Brows Held High on it.

Here's his review.

Its strange i won't watch the movie directly again but i love Phelan's review of it guess i'm a sucker for angry reviews.

wombat_of_war:
for a film that wanted to demonstrate how cheap life was in eastern europe and in particular serbia they certainly achieved what they set out to do.

This is a really good point. There's a great deal of context a lot of non-Serbian viewers aren't really meant to get - the director claimed that A Serbian Film represents the actions of the Serbian government towards its own people.

Of course, others have quite rightly pointed out that the director comes from a wealthy family and didn't really have to go through any of that suffering.

This...'historical relevance' doesn't necessarily elevate or excuse the film, but regardless no one can really call the film pointless, without an agenda. It supposedly has a very specific agenda, just not really one that seems terribly relevant to a foreign audience.

It's also worth pointing out that, really, calling any film 'excessive' is rather bizarre, especially when nothing in this film is particularly fantastic or otherworldly - these are all, individually, things that real people do, in isolated incidents of course.

I think 'unnecessary' would be a better word, but even that is arguably a moot point - people who are this depraved in the real world probably don't spend all that much time debating whether or not their actions are necessary.

I don't think it's a particularly good film - it's intense at times, I suppose, but hardly something I'd give a positive review. That said, I find the reactions to A Serbian Film rather...naive, maybe? This is a genre of film that has existed for decades, depicting acts that are committed in the real world. It's rather odd to be shocked and appalled by A Serbian Film. You knew what you were getting in to.

ItouKaiji:
snippity

I agree with quite a lot of your analysis of the analysis, however, although it was everything taken to the utmost extreme, i did find myself being able to empathize and relate to Milos, even if my experiences were in a completely different way in life. Anyways, i enjoyed your wall of text, was a well written response thanks.

The Lyre:
Snipola

I was completely with you until the last two sentences. I don't think it is odd to be shocked and appalled by the content of this film, and really think you are supposed to be. Especially for the fact that horrendous acts like these do happen in isolated cases in the real world.

Many many people live in their safe middle class western bubble and have (intentionally or not) no understanding that stuff like this happen all over the world every day, and it's good that people are shocked and appalled when confronted by it.

My problem with a serbian film is that when you put that many 'disturbing' scenes in a movie, they stop being disturbing. That one scene with the woman who was tied up, had her teeth pulled out with pliers and was forced into oral would have been quite shocking in any other movie, but in a serbian film, by the time you get to that point it almost seems normal for the setting they've created.

The scene where the protagonist kills a guy by

comes off as more funny than anything else. To me, anyway.

WWmelb:

I was completely with you until the last two sentences. I don't think it is odd to be shocked and appalled by the content of this film, and really think you are supposed to be.

By shocked and appalled, I meant more 'moral indignation to the point of demanding censorship'.

Obviously the scenes in the film can surprise the viewer, but thinking "How dare this exist, this is atrocious, how could anyone come up with this stuff?" is, in my opinion, a rather bizarre point of view.

WWmelb:
If you've seen it fellow Escapists, what are your thoughts on this film?

Unnecessary? Brilliant? Just average exploitation?

I like A Serbian Film. I really, really think it's a good movie.

It's very well-produced. The atmosphere is top-notch; the lighting and score, as well as the acting, are what makes this film. Without those elements, it'd be ranked with the Human Centipede as one of the scumbaggiest, laziest films of all time.

Yes, A Serbian Film will be hard to sit through. I did just fine, but then again I had been diving deep into the bowels of the Internet for years prior to watching it. But this movie needs to be brutal and disgusting; that's where its punch comes from. That's where the message it wants to convey is delivered. Like you said, it really couldn't have done the job it did otherwise.

I will watch A Serbian Film again. I'll probably show it to friends. I think it's a very good film, and it knows exactly what it's trying to be and what it's trying to do.

Saladfork:
My problem with a serbian film is that when you put that many 'disturbing' scenes in a movie, they stop being disturbing.

Part of me thinks that might be the point. Eventually all that wretch starts to feel normal, when it very clearly is not.

I've read that the film is supposed to be allegorical to the then-current (maybe still-current) political and social climates of Serbia. I dunno how much weight that holds, though.

I don't know, I've heard people call ASF a light-hearted family comedy...

I am glad I don't live in Serbia.

As I have no moral standard to hold anybody to, A Serbian Film is a movie that disgusts me personally, but I'd never condemn it. Hell, I've seen worse. It's just... Not my idea of a good Friday night popcorn flick.

The Lyre:

WWmelb:

I was completely with you until the last two sentences. I don't think it is odd to be shocked and appalled by the content of this film, and really think you are supposed to be.

By shocked and appalled, I meant more 'moral indignation to the point of demanding censorship'.

Obviously the scenes in the film can surprise the viewer, but thinking "How dare this exist, this is atrocious, how could anyone come up with this stuff?" is, in my opinion, a rather bizarre point of view.

Ahh got ya. I misinterpreted what you said. So we are on the same page then. Sorry about that.

captcha: cabbage borsht. WTF is that? *quick google* Okay.. scarily, it seems to be a dish that originated in eastern europe... places like the ukraine.. and serbia. Fuck you captcha you freaky little spy.

When you say 'film', it basically means a string of images on a magnetic reel that spins around on a spool preferably at 30 frames per second. During this, my stomach was churning at 30 vomits per second. I am a guy, not really sensitive but not a gore minded freak either. Means I am an average guy. Which is not what the protagonist is. A Serbian Film does portray the cheap, pathetic plight of the common man, ravaged by sexual desire and the desperation to achieve a satisfactory life (the wife's concern for money in the beginning) while all the government does is look down upon him as a scab, but just like any other shock movie director, it goes too far (I'm looking at you Takashi Miike). I do not think it was necessary to employ such extreme measures just to paint a picture of Serbia's condition. I do not think politicians rape infants. I do not think politicians pull teeth out with pliers. I do not think politicians put their penises in your socket. If such a despicable atmosphere defines Serbia, why not make a documentary? Ok, a documentary fails to make the emotional connection. What about powerful, punchy dialogue? I thought Transformers 3 and Crank2 had the worst script, wait till you watch this.
Of course, if one wants to imagine the extreme, there is virtually no limit. But there is that element of humane rationality, that A Serbian Film so conveniently ignores. It is here that I realized how disgusting, pointless and hollow the film was. It may appear to be very deep and a 'bitter truth' kinda thing but once you watch it, you will realize that the director has just operated on the principles of placebo, just to lure you in a gory, inhumane trap.

The ending was great IMO.
It's like it was saying "Life is going to fuck you, even after death".

There were some pretty tough scenes to watch in this movie, but that's all it really brought to the table IMO.

As a movie, it wasn't that great.
As a shock tool/vomit inducer/morality crusher, it was a amazing.

A Serbian Film is shock for shock's sake. It never felt cohesive -- it was a bare-bones plot with a bunch of insultingly hamfisted gore scenes, and I never felt an ounce of sympathy for the main character (unlike others here apparently).

I normally love these kinds of movies, but to me ASF just came off as taking itself way too seriously given the ridiculousness of the subject matter. If the director was trying to make a point about Serbian society, it got lost in all the overblown imagery of baby ***ing and misogyny.

It was too much.

It took any satire it was attempting and clubbed it to death with newborn porn.

You see, when Jonathan Swift decided to mock the do-nothing approach that Ireland was taking to British dependencies in "A Modest Proposal", he took ONE shocking concept and worked with it. A Serbian Film took ALL the shocking concepts (all of them) and did little with them other than say "So... this exists. Stare at it."

If there was a message about censorship in it, it was lost on me. It made me feel that there should be MORE effort into censoring snuff videos, if nothing else.

They took the shock value thing so far that at some point it just stopped bothering me and the whole thing became rather comedic as they kept taking it further and further. All the time it was kind of obviously fake, which really puts a damper on any real feeling of disgust I might've had.

Dr. Cakey:
I have not seen the movie, and I doubt I ever will, but Oancitizen had a very insightful episode of Brows Held High on it.

Here's his review.

Quoted For truth. I was going to post this, but you already did. :)

OT: I haven't seen the movie myself, but if Oancitizen's analysis of it is correct, It could be pretty interesting.

 

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