There has been a VAST change in the American sexual landscape in the last ten years. Yeah, you can blame the internet for it. I have a mental picture that in the near future, wizened grandfathers will tell disbelieving youngsters about how they had to leave the house to get porn and how naked women only existed on the glossy pages of magazines or on grainy copies of well-worn video cassettes.
Ah, the good ol’ days.
Back then, if you didn’t want just plain ol’ boy-girl, girl-girl or some variant thereof action, it was usually the thing of only hearsay or rarity. Now, thanks to the easy of deliverability and the anonymity afforded by the Internet, man’s darkest and most twisted desires are literally made flesh. The shadows of these are presented to us in “A Serbian Film”.
The first feature by writer/director , Srdjan Spasojevic, tells the story of Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), a retired pornstar, now family man. As it is for most these days, money is tight for him and his family: I imagine there’s only so much money one can hole away. Enter his friend and former co-worker, Lejla (Katarina Zutic), who comes to him with an offer. There’s a porn auteur, Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) with a very lucrative offer for Milos if he will sign on to do his visionary movie, no questions asked. He does. We follow his slow, uneasy immersion into the deranged fantasies Vukir wants to commit to film.
Then, he… and we plummet.
Many can’t see past the superficial shocks and perversities on the screen to see the underlying stories. First, we have Milos’ desperation to get his family into a financially secure place. Bitterness drips from his voice and life in Serbia is something he wants his family to escape from. Here, the hero’s journey doesn’t just go through hell, it starts there and descends further from there. Devils surround Milos; temptation and damnation is on every side. He soon learns that when one sells his soul, the deal you are offered and the deal you receive are often two different things. And while this may sound somewhat poetic, there is nothing pretty or frilly about this movie. Director Spasojevic does not give us any niceties to hang onto. He presents us an ugly tale of an ugly existence painted not in black and white, but in black and blood. If Spasojevic provides us with anything, it is with contempt – contempt for humanity on a grand scale. With the amount of sex presented in this film, one would expect a distinctly misogynistic tone to the film. Instead, the overall feeling is not of misogyny but of one of complete misanthropy: both the men and women are victims. Sex is not beautiful or arousing but either angry or mechanical. In either case, it is almost always shown as a way to debase another.
However, for all the sturm und drang of the movie’s final act, the preceding two are an agonizing calm; a torturous crawl through razor wire to the maw of the abyss. The actors drag us mercilessly with them. Todorovic’s Milos brings an odd likability to his role as the desperate father and husband who also happens to be a porn star. Jelena Gavrilovic and Luka Mijatovic are appropriately and tragically adorable as Milos’ wife and young son. As the crooked cop and Milos’ brother, Slobodan Bestic virtually (and sometimes literally) oozes onscreen. The cherry on the top of this dung heap, though, would certainly have to be Sergej Trifunovic as the director, Vukmir, who either through design of script or accident of translation delivers some of the most laughable yet disturbing lines I have ever heard.
“A Serbian Film” is a cinderblock stark piece of hate and madness. The only thing worse and darker than the fiction of it is that, somewhere in the world, the reality is far worse.