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The Madness of A Serbian Film

A Serbian Film is one of the most controversial films made to date. It brings up problems of a post-war state and asks more questions that have yet to be answered.

How do we take this film? Is it a legitimate film or should it be forever scorched from this earth? The short answer is, how can you penalize director Srđan Spasojević for a very original film? Is it in bad taste? Sure, it is. The film is difficult to watch and the scene where the main character, Milos, hacked off the head of the blonde woman chained to the bed, while continuing to have sex with her, signaled the end film as far as  I was concerned. That being said, I would not discourage anyone from seeing the film. The film was Spasojević ‘s debut film and shows he has potential as a director but definitely went a  little farther than he probably should have.

If you don’t know, the plot of A Serbian Film goes like this –

Milos is a semi-retired porn star who lives with his wife Marija and their six-year-old son. His brother Marko is a corrupt police officer who has the hots for Marija. The couple needs money. Lejla, a former co-star, offers Milo a starring role in an art film directed by Vukmir, an indy pornographer, who wishes to cast Milos because of his large penis. Milos is hesitant, but wants to secure his family’s future. Shooting begins at an orphanage, where Vukmir feeds Milos instructions through an earpiece while a film crew follows him.

Milos sees a young girl, Jeca, physically abused and scolded by her mother. In a dark room, television screens show Jeca seductively eating an ice pop, while Milos is fellated by a nurse. Then, Milos is instructed to receive it from the mother, while Jeca watches. Milos refuses, but is forced to continue. Marko later informs Milos that Vukmir is a former psychologist and has worked in children’s TV and state security. Vukmir meets a hesitant Milos afterward to explain his artistic style, showing a film of a woman giving birth to a newborn, which is immediately raped by Rasa, in what the director terms “newborn porn”. The horrified Milos storms out and drives away. Milos is approached and seduced by Vukmir’s female doctor.

A bloodied Milos wakes up in his bed some time later with no memory of what has happened. He returns to the now abandoned set and finds a number of tapes. Milos discovers that he was drugged to induce an aggressive, sexually aroused, and suggestible state. At Vukmir’s manipulative direction, Milos beats and rapes Jeca’s mother before decapitating her to induce rigor mortis and, later, a catatonic Milos is raped by Vukmir’s security. He then watches footage of Lejla voicing concern for Milos, only to be restrained as her teeth are removed. A masked man then enters the room and suffocates her during fellatio. The footage continues as Milos is led to Jeca’s home, where an elderly woman praises him for killing her mother and offers Jeca as a “virgin commune”. Milos refuses and escapes through a window to an alleyway, where he watches a girl pass by as she is being pursued by a pair of thugs. He begins masturbating and is assaulted by the thugs before they are killed by Raša, who then takes Miloš back to a warehouse with Vukmir.

At the warehouse, Vukmir’s doctor administers more drugs after which Milos overpowers her, sticking the syringe into her throat. He is then taken into a room to have intercourse with two hidden comatose bodies under a sheet. As Milos is guided to one body, the masked man from Lejla’s movie enters and begins raping the other. Vukmir then reveals the masked man to be Marko, his victim to be Marija and finally, that Milos is raping Petar. An enraged Milos lunges at Vukmir and smashes his head against the floor, initiating a brawl during which Marija bludgeons Marko to death with a sculpture. Milos wrestles a gun from a guard and shoots all, but the one-eyed Raša, who he kills by sticking his erect penis into his empty eye socket. A dying Vukmir praises Milos’ actions as truly worthy of film.

Milos, having recalled his actions, including locking his wife and son in their basement before passing out earlier, returns home to find them. He and his wife come to a mutual understanding that he, his wife, and his child, should die together, so the three gather in bed and embrace before Milos fires a fatal shot through himself, Petar, and Marija. Sometime later a new film crew, including the bald man from earlier, enters the bedroom. One of the security guards begins to unzip his pants and the director (the unknown bald man) advises him to “start with the little one”.

Not a very cheery film by any stretch of the imagination. An interesting political debate has sprung up in the wake of this film.  How much was this a mirror of the violence perpetrated by Serbian soldiers and political leaders during the Yugoslav wars of the 90s and how much was just the director going off on a tangent? Director Srđan Spasojević has denied there being overt connections but stated it was a “diary of our own molestation  by the Serbian government.” But the director and his co-writer have also stated that the film doesn’t exclusively with Serbian issues stating – “Serbia is merely a reflection of the ways of today’s New World in general, as it tries to imitate it and fails miserably. Contrary to the peerless politically correct facade of the New World, it’s still a soulless devouring machine killing every small freedom – of art and free speech – we have left, destroying everything different in its path.”

Serbian actor and film director Dragan Bjelogrlić offered a contrast and a rebuttal of everything Spasojević –   ” Its director in particular. I’ve got a serious problem with the boy whose father got wealthy during the 1990s — nothing against making money, but I know how money was made in Serbia during the 1990s — and then pays for his son’s education abroad and eventually the kid comes back to Serbia to film his view of the country using his dad’s money and even calls the whole thing A Serbian Film. To me that’s a metaphor for something unacceptable. The second generation comes back to the country and using the money that was robbed from the people of Serbia, smears the very same people by portraying them as the worst scum of the earth.”

Sometimes we  must consider a country’s history and recent chronology before we dismiss a film entirely. To view all film from a homogenized point of view is a mistake and the folly of Western society. Spasojević presented  a portrait that contradicted the whitewash current Serbian cinema was presenting to its viewers and seemingly brought up issues that have by no means been put to bed.

Tags: A Serbian Film

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