Friday, March 11, 2011

So Yeah This One

It seem best for me to step back from critiquing A Serbian Film on an emotional level, and suss out the nuts and bolts of it and what it's trying to accomplish and what it does accomplish, if I can at all. I'm putting the rest after the jump just in case y'all don't feel like skimming through talk of nastiness this early in the morning.

A Serbian Film tells the story of Milos, a retired porn actor who is lured back in for one last movie with the promise of untold riches that will support him and his wife and young son for the rest of their lives. The shadowy figures promising this movie refuse to tell Milos exactly what he's signing up for, but the money's too good to say no to. Naturally it is his wife who convinces him of this. It really is all about Eve still.

Milos is a smart man, we are told. Milos attended University. He appears to be a good, loving father and husband. He was very good at being a porn star too - all the ladies just begged to work with him because of how he made them feel. So what we've got set up here is our audience surrogate. The camera will of course put us in Milos' head time and again through the course of the film, whether the point of view's supposed to be directly his own or whether the camera is placed just over his shoulder, we are Milos. We have got to like Milos! He is just a regular dude, okay a little bit blessed in the erection department, but since we're projecting ourselves here we're not against imagining ourselves as a dude with a giant dick full of fucking talent so we can go with this.

And then the terrible things happen, and happen, and happen, and the laundry list of horrors and obscenities are checked off one by one, and Milos wanders through - Alice in Wonderland is referenced several times - and Milos tries and tries to fight or get out or anything but there are about seventeen hoops that the director would rather have him jump thorough to make it impossible for our poor Milos. He's stuffed with "cattle aphrodisiac"! The science is there, people. He's helpless. He's just gotta rape that kid.

See, the problem is... yes child rape and murder and necrophilia, these are real world horrors and I think it's something art should address. I think it's demanded of us. The problem with A Serbian Film isn't what it takes on, or even necessarily what it shows, it's that it doesn't earn the right to it. It gives us a game, a sleight of hand, a storytelling shuffle. It's Hostel meets The Hangover. It wants to put us in Milos' shoes so we're implicated, it wants to yell at us, "See! Anybody could rape a child! Even you!" But well first off no, not anyone could rape a child thank you very much.

But the film doesn't have the courage for its dubious convictions. It can't even convince us that its main protagonist could do these things. Child rape and murder and all the horrible things this movie shows happen in the world, but something tells me that it's done without the aid of porn stars recruited through massively elaborate schemes from mysterious benefactors. I don't think endless vials of cattle aphrodisiac are needed. This shit happens, and it is awful, and the director's gone out of his way to make a fairly straightforward horror movie out of it, just a fairly straightforward horror film with raped newborns. Stuffing a speech about how the politicians did this to their people into the mouth of a raving pornographer for a scene does not make this a political tract. Stuffing an erection into the mouth of a woman and suffocating her to death, that seems to be more the point of this movie, I think. It says all it wants.


RJ said...

I am pretty confident I will never see this. No thanks.

Sandisan said...

Thank you for the insightful review. I'm drawn to movies like this simply because I love movies that push boundaries. And I read Rich's review at fourfour a while ago and thought, maybe, maybe I will netflix this one. But I do think you've talked me out of it.

It's like you said, some movies earn it and some don't. A movie like Martyrs totally earns it. but just because you CAN make a movie doesn't mean you should.

And I'm not a prude, I'm not working from a "ew, torture porn, EVIL" basis. I'm just working from a "do I really need to see this" angle. I love a movie that gets down and dirty and shows that life isn't always wonderful and shiny happiness, but I also like to feel that there was a reason behind it.

Jason Adams said...

Yeah my advice to anyone would be not to see this movie. Which I hate because I feel like I'm granting the director what he wants which is, "Oooh my movie's so hardcore!" But it isn't - it's not thought-provoking, it's headache-provoking. I don't think that film festivals that show the film should be prosecuted like is happening, but I also think anyone who tags this film as art had their head up their ass.

timothy grant said...

Thanks for taking one for the team, Jason. I have been putting off watching this one for a while. My virgin-baby-rape-eyes thank you for giving me a reason to leave their virtue in tact.

Jason Adams said...

Speaking of taking one for the team I just want you all to know that my boyfriend has refused to touch me since this movie ended. THIS MOVIE HAS RUINED MY LIFE.

Joel said...

Yeah, I was 90% sure I wouldn't watch this before your review, now I'm 100% sure.
What was the mysterious benefactor's reason for all this? And his/her reason for choosing Milos in particular?

Sandisan said...

Didn't you say you purchased Love and Other Drugs? Just put on some Gyllen-porn and cleanse the old eyeballs.

Griff said...

This movie is so polarizing. Seems people either love it or hate it. I fall into the former category, although love may be too strong a word. I appreciated what it tried to do and loved the fact that it had the balls to do it. And I think it's one of the only Foreign films I have seen recently that I am not in fear of a Fucked Up American Remake.

I think it's worth the time investment and the loss of a little of your soul to see this film.

timothy grant said...

I feels ya sister. I have three friends who wont be in a room alone with me after i recommended Martyrs. They didnt make it past the first 15 minutes.

dashdog said...

Another persuasive critique, JA. I've been suckered into seeing so many movies that "push the boundary" and in recalling all the ones I've seen over the years, the only one I walked out of halfway thru was the original "I Spit On Your Grave." I couldn't get past the innate misogyny of the whole thing. But that was back when it was first released and now, having been desensitized by filmmakers upping the ante -- I can and did appreciate "Martyrs" but could not recommend it to many -- and it sounds like this film is just sensational and plainly unredeemable. So thanks for damping my curiosity. I'll skip it. And sure, I've saw "Salo" in college and got the metaphor, but never need to see it again. BTW, you must be perfectly matched with your mate; how on earth does he accommodate your viewing choices? Mine does,too, but I know better than to show him a movie like "Martyrs."

unclemike said...

I think "like" is too strong a word for how I feel about this film, but I certainly don't hate it. I think I get what the makers wanted to put across, even though I think what they put across is ham-handed, inelegant, and dopey (understatement of the year). But it's also raw and wounded and begging to be discussed.

There's a reason why it's called "A Serbian Film" and not "Baby Fucking." The horror of Serbia's history might have been well-served in a pseudo-doc about war, occupation, etc., but would it have made as much of an visceral impact as this fiction?

No, this thing is not for everyone. I'm still not even sure it was for me. There are some things I'd like to unsee. But it is what it is. And I'd rather have seen it than not. So.