a review by the Azure-Winged Magpie.
Damn, this took a while!
BIGHUGE NSFW WARNING
I’M DEAD SERIOUS
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
IF YOU KEEP READING THIS ANYWAY AND YOU’RE AT WORK OR SOMETHING, WHATEVER HAPPENS TO YOU IS YOUR FAULT AND WE DON’T CARE ONE BITTY BIT.
[The Corvid Review hereby accepts no responsibilities, nor is liable for any and all brain damage and/or mental trauma that might be caused by reading this post.]
Got that? Read the important bits? You’d better have.
Okay? Good. Now let me tell you why I put all that up… (warning: my intro’s going to be a long one)
A Serbian Film is one of the MOST notorious films on the internet. Look around, and folks are always talking about how messed-up it is. And let me tell you: it IS messed up. Not just because of that ONE scene everyone likes to babble about, but because of a LOT of things. This is one seriously fucked-up piece of work. And still, it isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever see. If you’re not cut out for fucked up ideas and thought Oldboy was a few steps too far, get out now and don’t look back. I’m going to be telling all about this film. And weirdly enough, I’m going to get a bit deep into why I think it works.
Note: This post is patched together from a number of attempts I made to review this film over the last two years. The best way to read it is to pretend I’ve just watched it for the first time, which is kinda true, cause I had no idea how much of it I’d binned from my brain until I watched it again just now. And also because this review’s kind of been a WIP since I first watched it.
A SERBIAN FILM
AN OPENING RANT
Oh… I told you lot I was going there (like over a year ago)…
This is the controversial film I’d heard about so long ago, and which I’ve mentioned I’ll review for months. And here I am, about to watch and review this “famous” piece of cinema ALL OVER AGAIN. But you know what? I WASN’T the first one to watch this film. The Crow actually got to the end before I did. For a movie with so much messed-up shit shoved IN YO FACE, I’m surprised the innocent child even made it…
But he doesn’t want to talk about it. So you’re stuck with me.
Now the Crow and the Brown-Necked Raven have collectively lost their shit over what my nutcase is about to say about this film…
(> っ <✿)!!!
FFS! I’m insane. EVERYONE (AND THEIR MUM!) KNOWS THAT. And I watch STUPID SHIT because my nut done went jellybean YEARS ago. I mean… just LOOK AT my Bucket here. Do some of those look like films a “normal” person would watch? Huh? HUH?!
Anyway… Let’s dig into this film that the whole bleeding internet seems to be scared of: A Serbian Film. What’s the big deal about this shit?! Let’s watch it. Oh, BIG DEAL! It’s just some cunting film about some…
(O っ O✿) !
What the… What did I just…?! I mean, who…?!
(O __ O✿) *ahem*
Right… okay. Uh-huh. Let’s get this over with…
This is going to be one hell of a ride, you lot. One HELL of a ride.
WHAT THE FUCK?!
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ALL THE FUCKING SPOILERS AND SOME FUCKING MESSED-UP, DISTURBING CONTENT
No… that’s part of the review…
W.T.F…?! … Seriously… WTF?!
First time I watched this, I must’ve been sober as a judge. This shit is horrific as fuck. Fuck what’s going on in the frame. It’s the ideas in this one…
But… also kinda well-made. I mean… it’s actually not that bad when it comes to the actual film-making. But… Wait. Hang up a mo. I’m getting ahead of my own pretty beak. Let’s break this shit down.
The film starts with a… certain scene. A certain scene that made me wonder at which point I’d done fucked up and started watching a porno. But I was a bit too scuttered to give a fuck so I kept watching. And just as the “bow-chika-bow-wow” starts going… THERE’S A FUCKING KID WATCHING IT.
___ (> っ <✿)!!!
WHO THE FUCK thought this was a good idea?! I mean… for fucks’ sake…
Okay. So. Right. This is Milos’ kid. Milos (Srđan Todorović, who used to be a drummer for EKV, a band I’m pretty sure I liked a few songs by back in the day) is a retired pornstar. And he keeps his DVDs hidden from his son (great job, mate. Bang on.), usually. He has a wife and he seems like he’s doing pretty okay for himself these days (but of course he ain’t). And then. INTRIGUE!
He’s got this job offer, see? “One last shoot“ for this director who’s working on something “new“ and “exciting“. Something that’s going to change the face of pr0n. And what is it? What is it? What is it?!
Welp. No one fucking knows, yet.
It’s his old “co-worker” Lejla (Katarina Žutić) who tells him all about this director, a guy named Vukmir (Sergej Trifunović), who’s up to some “artistic pornography” shenanigans. It’s all “professional” and comes with a BIG payday. Like a payday so big it’ll set his family up for at least another generation.
Milos’ sleazeball cop brother Marko (Slobodan Beštić) comes down to grease over Lejla and break up the chatter, and then it’s off to meet Vukmir and talk about this new job for Milos. Vukmir explains some parts of the job to Milos and sets up like there’s some kind of “grand plan” going on, selling the whole thing 10x more dramatically than Lejla did. He spits out some weird “philosophy” shit about naughty bits and hands and talks about how women in porn are usually treated (not in a nice way) and yeah… the guy’s a total fucking creep, but in like a professional way (I know some nutty “artists”, so I know the difference).
He says there’s a script, but doesn’t let on any more than that. He tells Milos that the funding’s foreign and that the film’s for the foreign market, but doesn’t tell him who it’s exactly for. He calls Milos an artist in the weirdest way and he acts like a fanboy when they first meet and… man, this guy is a walking “Oof”. It seems like he’s just nuts upstairs, but we know that it really means he’s got some dodgy goings-on in mind.
But we don’t know any more than Milos does. He’s given a contract, but he decides to sleep on it before he signs up for this weird “art” project. And it’s his wife Marija (Jelena Gavrilović) tells him to take the job (you heard me right… what a loving relationship!) when she hears about how much he’s been offered.
So, I mashed a lot of the first bit of the film up back there, but you get what’s going on, so all’s okay.
After agreeing to the project with Vukmir (let’s call him Puke-mir, ‘kay? I’ll tell you why later) Milos gets ready for his big upcoming shoot like he’s fucking Rocky about to fight Drago. I mean… serious. This training montage is long. He jogs around the woods, meditates and stays off the hooch like he’s going to throw down with Superman or something.
While he’s out and about training, Marko turns out to be in pervies with Milos’ wife, and it’s just plain fucking creepy. Like, even how the camera looks at her in the kitchen and him in the toilet is just heaps and heaps and heaps of creepy. Now I had a problem with this sort of thing in Playing With Dolls, and I’ve a problem with it here. But unlike in that film, this film has a reason (I guess) to go there. Right from the scene in the kitchen, I’m beginning to realise that this perv Marko’s going to be a bigger part of the story than I first thought. And hoo boy… does he ever become a BIG part of it.
Milos goes and meets Vukmir one last time before the shoot, and on the way, he passes a guy I’m going to call the bald fuck. He doesn’t show up again for a while, but the film lets us know that this guy’s going to be important later on.
The kid (who can’t be old enough) starts talking about “fun-times” with his dad, and… I’m already put off.
I mean, the shit ain’t done hit the fan yet and I’m already a bit icked-out by this film. I guess the folks behind the scenes are doing their job, then. I mean… it’s the kid that’s putting me off. There’s a lot of things in this film that rubs me the wrong way, but that’s the one thing that really gets to me so far.
Skipping forward, Milos shows up to work. He waddles around the set (an orphanage) while these private security type guys film him reacting to the scripted things that happen around him. Vukmir is directing him through an earpiece, and doesn’t give Milos much to go on apart from minor instructions.
And this is where the doo-doo starts to hit the fan.
The film starts breaking into flashbacks and skips-forward, and everything starts spazzing out. But it’s just a taste. A kind of a trailer for how much the film is going to start skipping around later on. There’s not too much of it, but I’ll get to that in a mo.
By the time we get around to the actual shooting of porno… even Milos is
about what’s going on.
After the first few days of weirdness, Milos has Marko pull up whatever he can find on Pukey. It turns out that Pukey’s real name is Vukmir Vukmir. He used to be a child psychologist, worked for Children’s State TV, worked with State Security, and disappeared while on a mission in Japan. So… who the fuck is this guy?!
After Milos has had enough and decided to quit the job, annoyed by the beatings and the children (nope. Not talking about that right now), he meets Puke-mir again.
And it’s all straight to shit from there. And that’s as far as I’m going to talk about the plot in detail, because this is where the doo-doo gets REAL. This meeting is where THAT scene happens.
But that doesn’t mean I’m taking the horrors away just yet.
The film just breaks down after this. And we’re just like an hour in. And if you thought things were bad enough after that scene… oh boy oh boy.
Yes. That scene’s horrific as all fuck, but y’know what? I don’t know what to make of it. It’s implied, and not shown (like fuck EVERYTHING if they did), and it’s only there to show exactly HOW INSANE Pukey is. It’s kinda like a parody of how far this film is taking things. I don’t think ANYONE working on this scene had anything more in their heads apart from showing off how fucking disgusting humans can be. I don’t really think this one scene has to be the reason this film has to be put down. Yeah, sure, the idea and the whole way it’s shown is fucked up. But it’s there to make us get how screwed-up the world Milos has gotten himself mixed up in really is.
…Fuck it. I don’t know. I don’t know what to say about it.
I mean, almost everyone in this film gets fucked one way or another (literally). It doesn’t matter if they’re kids, newborns, corpses, guys, girls, whoever.
THAT’S what fucks me up about this film. This film doesn’t fucking care who the victim is. Pukey even brings this up. He says that victims are the most precious commodity in the world. He tells us about how people all round the world are ready to pay for the experience of a victim from the “comfort of an armchair”. And you know what? Even though this is a rant he goes off on while acting crazier than we’ve ever seen him, and it’s set right before that scene… it kinda makes sense. That’s what we do, isn’t it?
I mean… let’s talk about people who look up the film even though we know what happens in it (I actually didn’t know about that scene, which is what I’m talking about really), why are we looking it up? What’s it about this whole “morbid curiosity” thing I, and even the Crow, went through when he looked up A Serbian Film that we always seem to have?
You know what? Since I’m doing it anyay, I’m going to drop my character for a bit just to make sure you actually understand what I’m trying to say (if I can even spell it out).
Yamata no Orichi/J-D A: Here’s the thing. In a weird way, I think that this film’s actually pretty clever, just not in the way that the director says it is. Just by existing, it’s throwing back judgement in the faces of people (like me) who go through the internet looking for creepy crawlies. Why do we stay up at night reading creepy-pastas? Why do we watch horror movies in the dark? Why do we look up (okay, this is something I don’t do, but I know that people do this) videos of beheadings, people who’ve been horribly injured, and the like?
Is it that we’re looking for that sense of victimhood? Is it that we want to see people (or animals, or whatever) go through it? Or do we get some kind of pleasure from it? Now I’m not going to get into the science and all that, since that’s the Crow’s (and especially the Cat’s) area, but I know that scenes of horror and terror do… interesting things to our brain.
The way Pukey talks about victims and people being up for throwing their money at the screen to watch this “flesh and blood” of the victim is almost a straight-up mad-scientist rant. And he’s not a 100% correct, I think. But, he’s hitting some of the right notes with what he’s ranting about. It even whips back to the rant he had about pornography when he was fanboy-ing over Milos when trying to sell him the project: the whole treating women as “dog-shit”, and then “winning them back”.
In a funny way, doesn’t this tell us what some people look for when we’re watching porn? Porn’s usually an aid to a very personal act of relief. It’s mechanical to most people, and especially to your typical guy.
The film’s taking everything we expected from it, shows it to us, and judges us for it. What people say about it online ties right back into this.
In a way, I consider the film kind of (kind of!) feminist, but in a very subversive way (hold onto your anger, children). It’s a movie that shows how far people are willing to go past decency to ‘push’ the human experience. Once someone’s seen enough of a certain kind of porn (I’m talking about addicts), they start pushing for something that’s going to give them a ‘better high’. And what’s to say that things haven’t already ended up at the point that this film is about?
Necrophilia, paedophilia, and rape… these are things OUT THERE that (some) people fucking LOOK for when looking for porn (and we really need to fucking get better at finding these fucks). A Serbian Film has ALL of those things, and sometimes in ways that you might not expect.
But how does that make it fucking feminist? It’s feminist because it shows off how horrible animal, masculine designs can be when you really peel decency off. In the film (and Lejla says this), Milos has to be reduced to an animal and drugged out of society to even function in the fucked-up, hyper-sexual world Pukey’s building up. This isn’t what people do, but it’s what people (men in this case) can do. And it’s like a warning. It’s a BIG fucking warning. It’s a world in which, if decency was gone, or it gets taken away, women have no place left and are just ‘toys’ for Pukey and his mates’ cameras (poor Marija, poor “Jeca’s Mother”, and poor Petar).
And this is a world that EXISTS. This shit is OUT THERE. Why are we fucking demonising A Serbian Film when these things exist?! Yeah. I have a problem with it being called “A Serbian Film“, because it suggests that this fucked-up brand of (in)humanity is specific to Serbia on the cover, when it really isn’t. It could be called A Human Film and it’d have fit better.
Personally, I’d be a post-feminist, I guess (even though I’m not up to date with all this new fancypants lingo). And this is a film right up that alley, even though I’m not sure it’s meant to be.
(Yeah. You lot didn’t expect I actually sound like that behind the Magpie do-over, did you? But that’s not even the point. The point is: this film made me fucking BREAK CHARACTER. There’s a reason this review took so long to pump out. I don’t think I’m going to get back into it for a while…)
Yes. I think this is an important film. But I think it’s important to only a small percentage of the public. This is not a film for everyone, and never will be. I wish I could tell you which ‘small percentage’ this is important to, but it’s hard for me to put walls round them. It’s going to take a special kind of person to realise what this film’s trying to get at. I know the Crow’s one of them, and so am I. Even though he doesn’t want to talk about the film, he’s been ‘holding my hand’ through this review so that I can tell you what I really think.
But I can’t recommend the film. I can’t because I don’t know what you’re like, and what you look for when you’re feeling a bit handsy with yourself. I know what I like, and I’m in a bit of a safe space from the danger-zone of people this film might give… ideas. And that’s where there’s a problem with this film. I think this film can be dangerous. And I don’t need to tell you why.
For the wrong kind of person, this film is totally capable of tipping people down darker routes. And that’s why I stand by the idea that the film should be restricted. Of course you can’t control who’s going to end up watching it, but I’m not sure if making this film was the best idea.
It is done well. It looks great (just talking about the camerawork here) and sounds great. All the film-making things are good. I can’t fault any of them. But I’m not comfortable (and this is me we’re talking about) with knowing that this film’s out there, clever and important as it might be.
I know I might have ranted about and not been clear, but my brain’s fucked after all the talking and writing today. I think I made my points easy to get, but this has been a really tough film for me to write about.
THAT’S THE CINEMA! (Closing Thoughts)
It’s really, really, REALLY well-made. Like, it looks like it’s made by someone who’s been doing this for years.
But like I said, it’s clever, it’s almost important, and it’s dangerous. It’ll make any normal person sick to their stomach, and it’s got some things to think about, but it all gets lost in the fucking splattering going on during the second half. The only “clever” and “important” bits are in the rantings Pukey goes off on, and that’s about it. If this film was just that speech, done a little bit better, I’d recommend the shit out of it.
Now this is the part which is going to be hard for me to say… This is an amazing horror film (if we’re just thinking about that bit). But is it even a horror film? I think it’s best to just call this one a splatter-thriller film. It doesn’t really have that many “horror things” going on when you really think about it, but fuck it: I’ll just call this a horror film anyway.
Oh man… this took a lot out of me, and I don’t even think I can think straight any more after going through all of that, AND watching the film again. But I needed to get this over with. So here we are.
Fuck this. I’m off to take a shower.
THE CROW: “No”/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: “Be Careful if You Think You Want to Watch This…” 4.5/10
THE BROWN-NECKED RAVEN: TBD/10
Here’s the fucking poster: