“A Serbian Film”
In my long history of loving cinema, there have only ever been two films that have literally intimidated me. These are movies that I’d heard about, and wasn’t sure I could handle the content. They are Cannibal Holocaust, and A Serbian Film. Cannibal, I literally waited years to actually see, in the case of Serb my curiosity got the better of me much faster. The thing is, there was a time when certain things just made me sick to witness, whether it was being faked in a movie or not, and rape was atop that list. As the years have gone by, as with all of us, I’ve become more and more desensitized to just about everything, rape included, and not much bothers me anymore. All that being said, A Serbian Film still gets to me, every time I watch it, I say it will be for the last time. Truth be told, as I sat down to watch it again for the purposes of this write-up, it was only the third time I’d seen it. I have no plans to revisit it any time soon, or in the future for that matter.
When Serb opens, we are introduced to Milos, the Filthy Stud. Milos is a retired porn star attempting to lead a normal family life, and is stuck in the financial woes of doing so that most of us are all too familiar with. When an ex co-worker from his film days named Layla, who is aware of his money problems, approaches him with an offer, Milos has a decision to make. She informs him that there’s a new big time film maker working in Serbia, interested only in making “artistic pornography” and he’s paying top dollar. Enough money that neither Milos, nor his wife would ever have to work again. Intrigued by the chance that he could provide for his family’s future with just one paycheck, Milos agrees to meet with the guy, a powerful man named Vukmir.
The meeting, which takes place at Vukmir’s mansion, begins with Milos being bombarded with compliments about his past performances. Vukmir is obviously highly interested in working with Milos, however Milos is still reluctant. He asks Vukmir about his work, and if there’s any he might have seen, to which Vukmir only replies that he makes art, naked art, and only for a select clientele. At the end of the meeting, Milos is left with more questions than answers, but before the conversation can go any further, a woman walks into the room with a contract, and Vukmir’s offer. Milos takes the night to think it over, and while we aren’t told the amount of money being thrown at him, it’s obviously quite a bit as the next morning, the contract is signed.
When work begins, Milos doesn’t get a script, he has absolutely no idea what he’s supposed to do next, he’s given an earpiece and on the other end of it is Vukmir, giving direction from an unknown location. It’s obvious from the very beginning, when Milos is directed to enter an Orphanage to and perform, while a young girl is shown on two television screens in front of him, that working for Vukmir isn’t exactly going to be normal. Unable to shake the general discomfort he’s feeling toward the production and the people he’s working for, Milos eventually enlists the aid of his older brother, a policeman, asking him to find out all he can on the mysterious director. This is the same brother, by the way, that’s got a weird obsession with Milos’ wife, and his family life. Milos also questions Layla about her involvement with them, and it turns out that she doesn’t exactly know a lot more than he does. It also turns out that Vukmir’s had her do things with animals on film, which of course is only ok because it’s considered “art” when he films it. On a side note, I’m completely shocked that bestiality doesn’t have it’s own wing in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I bet all the Serbian ones have them.
From here, things beging to get darker and far more twisted for Milos. His next encounter in the orphanage has him doing some pretty brutal things to a woman, as a young girl watches, only instead of on a monitor, she’s actually in the room this time. Milos is horrified when the light comes on and he sees her, and for the first time voices his reluctance to work in this manner to Vukmir. After a brief discussion with him, Milos leaves, and is later contacted by his brother, who has some information on Vukmir. It seems he was a fairly renowned child psychologist up until a few years ago when he disappeared off the grid. He’d also always had a fascination with film, and I suppose at this point we all know basically what he’d been doing since his disappearance.
At this point, Milos has decided he’s had more than enough, and he goes to Vukmir the next morning and informs him that he’s retiring and won’t finish the film. Now, I’m not going to attempt to explain Vukmir’s reaction to the news. Truth is I couldn’t, even if I wanted. I’m either not smart enough, or I’m just not clinically insane like this fuck is. Basically he attempts to validate his work to Milos, explaining that most of us are too lazy or too scared to truly experience life, to be victimized as life intends for us to be, so he films life and people pay for it. The victim feels the most and suffers the best. It’s also at this point that the scene comes into play. If you’re familiar with this movie in any way prior to reading this, then you most likely know the scene to which I refer. I can honestly tell you it’s as hard to type as it is to watch. Vukmir shows Milos a scene from one of his other films, tells him he will show him the power of a true victim, in which a woman gives birth, and the infant is immediately taken from her and raped. Milos, clearly as disgusted as anyone in their right mind would be, leaves the room as Vukmir chants “newborn porn”.
Still with me? Yeah. Sadly, as compltely fucked up as this is, at least the rape is just implied and we aren’t exactly shown it in graphic detail. Sadly, in A Serbian Film, the worst is yet to come. Milos leaves the house, but doesn’t get far before blacking out behind the wheel. When he comes to, he awakens at home and discovers that he’s lost three days. He’s been visibly beaten, has blood all over his clothes, and he’s even pissing blood. His family is also nowhere to be found. He leaves the house, intent on finding them and discovering just what happened during those three days.
As he enters Vukmir’s mansion, Milos begins to have small flashbacks as to what he endured, and did. When he was being shown the baby rape video, Vukmir had slipped bull viagra into his drink, intent on getting his “stud” to finish his film one way or another. Apparently, bull viagara puts humans into what can best be described as a nasty case of dick roid rage. While in the house he finds one of the cameras that had been filming him and a collection of tapes. He picks them up, and heads out into the woods to watch them, knowing the answers to what he’d done for the last three days, what he’d endured for the last three days. The rest of the movie contains some of the most brutal, depraved, disgusting, and disturbing shit I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Picture a guy getting killed by having a dick thrust through his eye socket, and you’re getting there. Things with Milos brother take a completely fucked up turn, Milos himself does the unthinkable, there isn’t a happy ending for a single character in this film. Things finally culminate in an absolutely heartbreaker of an ending.
The thing that sets this movie apart from a lot of other “extreme” cinema for me is that, I feel for Milos. Even though he does some extremely heinous shit, what it all boils down to is he was doing what he thought he had to do to provide for his family. I can relate to that, although nobody’s going to be asking me to star in any porno anytime soon. And then, when he saw just how fucked up things were, he tried to do the right thing and get as far away from it as possible. Of course, things didn’t turn out well for him, but at least he tried. In the end, I guess it’s just as Vukmir said, nobody suffers like the victim, and because of that, Milos ends up being a tragic character. I mentioned Cannibal Holocaust earlier, when I watched it, I had the exact opposite response to it. That movie is completely unrealistic to me, because of the characters. At first glance, I thought I was going to be supremely fucked up after I saw what happened to the college film students, but then when their “footage” was shown, it totally took me out of the movie. They pillaged, raped, murdered, and even pointlessly killed a turtle on their way to getting theirs at the hands of a tribe of cannibals. Well, fuck em, I say. They fucking deserved what they got. It was just so unrealistic, who the hell were these kids?! In A Serbian Film though, Milos is a father who is struggling to provide from his family, and is offered an opportunity too good to pass up. That I get. Psychotic, murdering, rapist college kids? Not so much.
If you manage to make it all the way through A Serbian Film, consider yourself pretty goddamn hardcore. I do. I could sit here and tell you how I’ve hated myself for watching it every time I do so, I could tell you that I don’t want to like it, that there’s no excuse for it, that the people responsible should be locked away, and all of that may be true. But it would also be doing the film an injustice by not mentioning just how well it’s done. The camera work is superb, the acting is great, and whether you’re disgusted or not by it, there’s no denying that this film gets under your skin. It touches on emotions, be they good or bad, in a way that few films ever do. The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with for it, sadly also makes reference to one of the other most disgustingly depraved things I’ve ever witnessed, Two Girls, One Cup. There’s a reaction video on youtube of Kermit the Frog watching that sick shit, and he’s initially disgusted of course, but then he turns his head as if to see if anyone else in the room is watching and when he decides he’s alone, he starts jerking off like a madman. That’s what A Serbian Film is like for your eyes, you want to be disgusted and sickened, and you want to want to turn it off, but you just can’t. You want to see what happens next, you want to see how things play out, even though you just know it’s going to completely tear your heart out, or at the very least make you vomit. A Serbian Film is a lot of things, but the one thing it isn’t is a bad film.
Big thanks to Tromeric for once again letting me ramble on and on here in the House of Grog. It’s always an honor. Enjoy the rest of Extreme Cinema Week!
- Mitch Reaves
Mitch Reaves is a double-bacon genius burger, and just a little druuuuunk! Check out Tales From the Batcave for more of his awesome.