A Serbian Film (2010) Review by Shawn Savage

“A Serbian Film” is easily one of the most controversial, talked about films to be seen this year. Almost as fascinating as the film it’s self, is the negative reaction from it’s detractors. I’ve seen people bash films before, some deserved it, some did not, but never have I seen a film create such a split amongst it’s viewers. There are two basic reactions to “ASF”, one is loving it, but feeling weird to admit it, and the other is hating it, but spewing such venomous vitriol that it’s impossible to hide the effect that the film had on your psyche, your soul, your concept of film, or maybe even your grasp on reality.

The story follows Milos, played amazingly by Srdjan Todorovic, a struggling ex pornstar taking low rent porn gigs to make ends meet. Milos is approached by an old colleague with a job offer that would set his family up for life. The only problem is, he can’t know what kind of film he is shooting. I feel that to break the plot down any further for the viewer would do the film a disservice. Wile it’s going to effect you either way, the less you know about it going in, the harder it’s going to hit you.

While this film is shocking as a whole, the most shocking aspect is the stellar production values.After reading the plot synopsis, and hearing the tales spread by other viewers, one would expect this to be a dirty, low budget affair. The truth of the matter is, this is a fuckin’ movie! Every now and then you’re sucked into a world created by a film the second the opening credits splash the screen, “A Serbian Film” is this type of affair. Unlike other films, you’re not eased into the filth, right from the jump we’re smacked in the face with the seedy Serbian underworld.

Other films have came this year that promised to deliver some of the most disgusting stuff you’ve ever seen, most notably, “The Human Centipede”, the difference between that film, and “ASF” is that the former makes you fill in the blanks with your own disgusting mind, while the latter bombards you with a visceral display of the most vile, and twisted acts ever filmed outside of actual snuff. To say that this film will not be for everyone is a massive understatement. Things happen within that you will not be able to forget. I have talked to people that were brought to tears simply by being told of some of the goings on, not even witnessing them for themselves. If you have a hard time separating fiction from your personal life, meaning, if you have a child and can’t bear to see children hurt on screen, this film will scar you.

One of the most solid aspects of “ASF” is it’s score. Without it, it would almost be a completely different movie. Dirty and grungy hard heating beats serve well to set the mood for the viewer. If the acts being carried out on screen weren’t enough to make you feel uneasy, this score will top you off. Most films have a score that is bland, and generic, and serves no purpose other than to follow the unwritten rule that all films must have music. “ASF” uses it’s music the way it was intended, and not only sets a mood, but paints a picture.

Lightly touched on before, the acting in this film is superb across the board. Nobody phoned in their performance here, which is odd considering the type of film. You will feel the emotions portrayed on screen, as we follow Milos on his descent into the macabre, and you will feel his anguish.

Almost as fascinating as the film it’s self has been people’s reaction. Those that I have interacted with that loved this flick as much as I do have said that they would never watch it again. I do not feel this way. I look at “ASF” as an experience, and nothing makes it better than to experience it with other people. This is a film that I will show to friends with a high tolerance for the extreme for years to come.

Love or hate it, “A Serbian Film” effects it’s viewer, in the endless sea of mind numbing entertainment that we’re floating in these days, that’s quite a feat. There are those that will argue that there is no artistic merit to be found within, but in my experience, these are folks that just don’t quite know what to do with the emotions it invokes. I feel that this is an important for that fact alone. Art is supposed to make you feel, it’s supposed to solicit a response, regardless of whether or not that response is love or hate. However you feel about this film, you can’t deny that you responded to it, regardless of which side of the spectrum you fall. Films like this don’t come along very often, so tackle it at the first given chance. This may well be the most important genre film I’ve seen for a decade.

9/10

  • Anonymous

    Great review Shawn. I've seen most of the negative commentary came from people that haven't actually seen the film itself.
    ASF is much deeper than what it seems the first time you watch it, because you're anxious and waiting for things to happen but there's a lot of allegory going on which I caught the second time I watched it. I have a feeling some parts of it are like black comedy, intentionally very exagerrated, I found Vukmir to be hillarious at some points and then there are some very dramatic, tragedy like moments..
    Of course this movie is not for everyone, but at the end of the day it is just a movie, and it is actually very much against those horrible acts portrayed in it.
    It's undoubtedly a very powerful movie

    MS

    • David McMillan

      I also thought Vukmir was hilarious! He could have come from the most outlandish Ian Fleming thriller – and I mean, if you’re going to have a villain, let him ham it up, let him revel in his madness! Otherwise what’s the point? I also see Salo as a bit of a black comedy – those 4 libertines are just so nasty and having such a good time being villains! And, again, they are the villains – it seems strange to demand they be a little less villainous to make the film more ahem palatable.

  • David McMillan

    I stopped reading at the phrase “outside actual snuff” – oh puh-lease. You torpedo your own credibility when you refer to an empty genre dreamed up by exploitation marketeers and filled in partly by sadistic imagination and partly by the explosion in home video and portable video cameras which did start recording real death, in contexts that were hardly “snuff”. For the record, I concur that “A Serbian Film” is a terrific terror/thriller. It’s caused a stir, but whether it stands the test of time is not really knowable yet. The acting was brilliant and it was incredibly manipulative – for me it works more as a bad dream than as a political allegory. I don’t think gore films can really sustain much socio-political allegory, except at the unconscious level, which is maybe why there’s so much polarisation around this film.

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