A Serbian Film Becomes the Most Censored Film in the UK in 16 Years

Yep, you read that headline correctly. While we knew that Srdjan Spasojevi’s uncompromising, brutal and savage A Serbian Film was causing a major stir in the offices of the UK’s British Board of Film Classification (and others, for example Westminster Council’s eleventh-hour banning of the film being shown at this year’s Film4 Frightfest), the truth still comes as somewhat of a harsh reminder that British citizens continue to remain barred from truly exercising their adult freedoms to view fictional and artistic material of their choosing unimpeded.

Today The Guardian reports that A Serbian Film, with debilitating cuts totaling four minutes and eleven seconds in order to obtain a BBFC “18” certificate, is officially the most mutilated film since 1994’s Indian release Nammavar.

While obvious leaps and bounds have been made in terms of the UK censors’ attitude to genre offerings since the quite frankly embarrassing days of the Video Nasties furor, it still comes as somewhat of a sucker punch to not only cinephiles, but also filmmakers, when this kind of reminder of the dominant moral guardians raises its ugly head.

A spokeswoman for the BBFC stated: “A number of cuts were required to remove elements of sexual violence that tend to eroticise or endorse sexual violence.” Having seen the film in its entire uncut form, brothers and sisters, I can safely attest that there is nothing contained here that in any way attempts to “eroticise or endorse” sexual violence. A Serbian Film is an ugly, graphic and challenging film, for sure.

But if you find the violence contained within in any way stimulating or arousing, then you’ve got more serious problems going on that aren’t going to be solved by denying the rest of the country the ability to judge for themselves.

Milos is a retired porn star who made his name in foreign productions. In order to sustain his impoverished family, he accepts an invitation from an ex-partner and friend, Layla, for one last job. He’s supposed to star in an “art porn” movie in which his instincts are more important than knowing what the script is about. The director sounds intelligent and convincing, even charming. But the first day of shooting is a bit strange. Then it gets weirder. When Milos decides to pull out, things go from bad to worse. And worse. Until they reach the unspeakable.

A beautifully shot and edited film with an excellent sense of timing and narrative economy, it is graced by a superb, droning industrial score. The drama is augmented by incredibly convincing and poignant performances.

A Serbian Film (review here) is firmly rooted in the frustration and despair of living in Serbia today. It reinvents the horror genre to suit its own purpose, turning it into a powerful cinematic scream of anger and frustration. It offers a stylized version of what it feels like to grow up in a country humiliated, denigrated, impoverished, bombed-out, stripped of its territory, labeled genocidal and haunted by the spirits of war crimes both real and constructed. The film is a scream against shady politics, both domestic and foreign; against limitations both internal and external; against being both metaphorically and literally fucked. There are moments where it goes to devastating extremes, but never without purpose or reason. You won’t know whether to laugh, cry, stare in disbelief or leave the theatre when faced with the transgressive new links between sex and death that A Serbian Film reveals. This film will fuck your senses and rape your soul. You have been warned.

For more, check out Cult Labs’ official A Serbian Film website.

A Serbian Film – UK Trailer
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A Serbian Film (click for larger image)

A Serbian Film (click for larger image)

A Serbian Film

Gareth Jones

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.

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  • Vanvance1

    I’d like to see an end to the power of ratings boards.

    There should be NO ratings but each movie would have a ‘warning sticker’ that would list ‘bloody, violence, women being fucked up the cunt with a cactus, Jesus having sex with small boys etc…’

    Make it a touch more specific and let people choose for themselves if that’s suitable for them.

    • GJW

      That can’t happen!
      It makes too much sense.

      “Well, for one thing, I think he was probably a closet homosexual who did a lot of cocaine. That whole Yale thing.”

  • Cinemascribe

    Boy this sort of thing just pisses me off. What kills me about censorship of this kind is that it has no purpose other than to destroy the vision of the artists and force a singular perspective on what qualifies as legitimate entertainment or art onto the public. According to the censors in Britain, intelligent, conscientious adults are incapable of coping with the more graphic imagery in “A Serbian Film”. Yet at this very moment, anyone in Britain with internet access can go online and find a website where the video of the so-called “Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs Murder” (aka “3 Guys-1 Hammer) is streaming and watch genuine video footage shot by some asshole kids a few years back while they brutally murdered a man with a hammer for kicks. So exactly who is being protected here and what are they being spared from ? Don’t want kids to see filth? That’s why God created parents. Censorship serves no purpose other than to quell our inherent inclination towards free thought and individual choice.
    “I’m saying that I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man…and loved it. But now the dream is over..and the insect is awake.” – Seth Brundle

  • will graham

    They didn’t ban it from being shown at Frightfest.

    The organisers decied that they didn’t want to show a censored version of that film.

    • Pestilence

      True – perhaps should have said “ban on screening the film uncut for a festival audience”.

      I believe another festival (possibly the London International Film Festival) also tried to screen it uncut under the legal loophole of a “private screening”, before they too were told they couldn’t.

  • Caterpillar

    I’d argue that the outright refusal of giving the Japanese movie GROTESQUE a rating makes it “more censored” than SERBIAN FILM.

  • Sirand

    I swear, censors are more bat-shit insane than any of the people making these movies. If they truly think the filmmakers are “endorsing” any of this stuff, they’re fucking nuts.