Friday, June 17, 2011

A Serbian Film

A Serbian Film (2010, Serbia, Srdjan Spasojevic)

Once upon a time, a man screwed for a living. Then he retired to live happily with his family. But he still missed his screwing life, so he often watched videos of his screwing exploits. One day, a former screwing partner of his appears and offers a chance where he can screw again but this time in an artful manner and for lots of money. The man thinks it over. He needs the money because his happy life isn't cutting it. So he takes up the screwing job and signs on the dotted line. Of course as it often happens when an offer is too good to be true, it usually isn't. His screwing job ends up screwing with his head and causes his family to get screwed over as well. So the happily ever after ending never comes and the screwing continues long after the fade to black.

That in a nutshell is A Serbian Film. The film has had a lot of hype around it and most of it revolves around a few questionable scenes. However, without those scenes the film is just an upgraded version of a B grade movie about screwing. The director on the other hand claims his film is about the horrible psychological damage caused by the Serbian war where people were screwed physically and mentally. Such an explanation appears to be a ploy to attach a deeper meaning to an otherwise average film. It may have happened that someone told Srdjan Spasojevic that the screwing represented the plight of the Serbian people perfectly and such words probably encouraged the director to sell his film as a political statement. The director’s ploy has certainly worked. The fake political suffering tag coupled with the screwing scenes has ensured the film a cult following and instant talking points. If Srdjan truly wanted his film to represent the screwing of people’s psyche, then including rape sequences is the not the best way to depict that because such scenes draw attention to themselves and prevent any insight into the character’s mental suffering. Thankfully, there is an appropriate example of a Serbian film that properly manages to get across the suffering of its Serbian characters. Mladen Djordjevic’s The Life and Death of a Porno Gang accomplishes everything that Srdjan Spasojevic claims his film does but The Life and Death of a Porno Gang manages to do it without needless rape sequences. There are torture sequences in ...Porno Gang and even snuff film making but the film does not only focus on torture but establishes a larger framework which shows how society traps the main characters and suffocates them into making the choices they eventually make.

The titles of both films are misleading as well. The Life and Death of a Porno Gang contains very little porn and is a case study about a few characters marginalized by society. On the other hand, A Serbian Film has nothing to say about Serbia but looks at various forms of porn, including torture and child porn. Needless to say, the lesser of the two films has gotten all the attention while a worthy film like The Life and Death of a Porno Gang has all but disappeared. Interestingly, both films still have reference points to Emir Kusturica's Underground. The Life and Death of a Porno Gang picks up where Kusturica's film ended and shows a much bleaker future. Also, one of the characters is shown wearing a jacket with the word "underground" clearly visible. A Serbian Film fulfills a statement uttered in Underground -- "A War is not a War until a brother kills a brother".

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