Starring Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Slobodan Bestic
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic
Distributed by Invincible Pictures
The shock of A Serbian Film has been well documented, not only here on Dread Central (with a debate/discussion that raged across two episodes of our Dinner for Fiends podcast), but on virtually every movie website in existence. This wildly divisive cinematic experience boasts some of the most infamous “shock sequences” of the last two decades beneath the guise of thinly veiled social commentary. Yes, it’s a heavy experience, and one you’re not likely to forget anytime soon, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth your time.
Nearly everyone who watches A Serbian Film has at least one similar reaction: It’s far better made than expected. Performances are largely good, special effects are certainly convincing and the story manages enough intrigue (at least, initially) to keep anyone engaged. For the first hour or so, director Srđan Spasojević stages a competent mystery/thriller that exudes creepiness as our main character, Milos, a legendary male porn star, navigates the insidious landscape of the underground Serbian film industry as a way of providing for his family. Needless to say, not everything goes according to plan, and Milos quickly finds himself trapped in an utterly graphic and grotesque experience that plays out like an extreme version of David Fincher’s The Game.
Of course, everything that happens throughout is done as a way of illustrating the oppression of Serbia’s people at the hands of their government. Similar to Pasolini’s Salo, it’s a political statement dressed up in disgusting exploitation. It’s not enough to justify slogging through 102 minutes, however, and the film runs out of steam well before the end. Just as the debauchery is ramping up, the narrative deflates in a glut of monotony. If there’s any reason to keep going, it’s out of sheer curiosity to see where it will go next, but by the time the telegraphed conclusion rolls around, it’s hard to muster anything other than an eye roll.
A Serbian Film isn’t great art, and entertainment mileage can and will vary. Adventurous genre fans will probably want to walk the same freaky corridors that Milos does – if only to make up their own minds about this controversial shit show. But it’s hardly the kind of thing worth revisiting. Overlong, underwritten and quickly redundant – proceed at your own risk.
Invincible Pictures brings this edited version of A Serbian Film to Blu-ray in a stunning high definition transfer. Finely detailed, with superb textures found in faces and hairs, it’s an excellent presentation. Shadows are deep and inky black, and there’s absolutely no noise to speak of. Invincible Pictures might’ve had no choice but to release an edited version, but this looks great.
Speaking of cuts, it’s to be noted that the infamous baby rape has been almost entirely been stricken from the film, leaving behind something of an eerie implication in its wake. And the other nasty surprise comes late in the film – obscuring the identity of an unfortunate victim. It does make the movie a bit easier to take, but it’s important to note this isn’t the director’s original version.
You probably already know whether or not you’ve got any interest in A Serbian Film. While this release has no extras (save for a link to download a digital copy – not present in my screener), fans will love the excellent A/V quality. Definitely not recommended to those easily unsettled, though.