Monday, May 16, 2011

Enduring A Serbian Film

A SERBIAN FILM is a prime and unholy example of a litmus test fans of transgressive cinema put themselves through to see if they can make it to the end credits. Why do some desire such a journey?

The story involves pornography and snuff filmmaking, produced with a political and philosophical bent by a Eurotrash millionaire. He is interested in hiring a down and out ex-porn star to participate in his latest "work of art". This former "star" is now happily married with a loving and beautiful wife and cute son, but he is need of serious money and after some reluctance, essentially signs a contract with this devilish man to act in his ambitious porn film. The producer tells the star nothing with regards to what acts he's expected to do on camera. He is to take direction without any script or knowledge of what to expect. But to his horror, what he encounters is a sick project that involves pedophilia, necrophilia and any other taboo or breach of human decency. He is also trapped, because he awakens after days of his participation to see videotapes of what he did. He is of course sickened and horrified. How did he come to commit such acts that are against his morality and seemingly beyond his willpower?

It's without question that A SERBIAN FILM will shock and offend most people. Some adventurous film goers who have been inoculated to such depraved films by way of seeing CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, IRREVERSIBLE, etc. will may find it worthwhile. I watched it with a critical sense of detachment which, in order for this film to truly work, is not an ideal state of mind. Throughout the horrendous on-screen mayhem, I was never truly absorbed and captivated. I did think what I was seeing was abhorrent but not believable for a second. It functions more as an artsy freakshow instead of something with conviction that could grab me. Aside from the movie's exploitation trappings, it also makes heavy handed statements about Serbia by way of sexual metaphors that went over my head. Maybe I need to read up on Serbian politics to understand why the mad porn producer feels his snuff film somehow represents the social state of the country, but then again he is a psycho.

The film's strengths include some strong cinematography and editing that build an inspired story structure. But the main asset is the performance by Sergej Trifunovic as the doomed ex-porn star Milos. He has a striking presence and look that reminded me of a cross between Mickey Rourke and character actor Don Stroud. He does a commendable job of portraying a man who loves his wife and son but also misses the financial rewards of being a porn star. His character is interesting. A man torn between a normal life and a past life that he cannot explain to his infant son.

A SERBIAN FILM succeeds, I guess, as a sick head trip for the unprepared. There are acts committed in this film that I'm unwilling to print. However, it's absurdity and contrived execution kept me from feeling profoundly disturbed, even though what I was witnessing was beyond the pale. It's too ambitious and well made to easily dismiss as trash but I can't recommend it. But then again, is recommend a proper word to use in a review of this movie? How in the world can you recommend A SERBIAN FILM?

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