I watched A Serbian Film. I appreciate that there are some people in this world who think I should be given a lethal injection or institutionalised for engaging in such a depraved act. And I do feel the need to justify myself (a bit) – because the act of watching it has left me feeling slightly soiled. I watched it out of morbid curiosity. I watched it because I have a horror blog and I can’t justify this blog if I won’t watch the most controversial examples of the genre. I watched it because I refused to believe that it could really be THAT disturbing. But what it ultimately comes down to is that I really, REALLY didn’t want to watch this film. And so I knew I had to.
The only thing I hate more than a film which is shocking for the sake of it – is an offensive film that masquerades as art. This film, with its depiction of sexual violence of the absolute worst kind imaginable, claims to be an allegory for the abuse of Serbia.
This film is not short on defenders. There are people who claim that it is an intelligent piece of cinema, which resonates at a deep emotional level with the viewer and which has an engaging story. They will also claim that it plays as a rich metaphor about the anguish and degredation of an entire country.
And THAT is what is so disturbing about A Serbian Film. Not the movie itself – but its proponents. In all honesty I found A Serbian Film horrific to such a degree of lunacy and revulsion that it ceased to have any emotional impact upon me other than distaste and annoyance. What disturbs me is that there are some people who actually BELIEVE in its pretentions – who feel genuinely horrified by this celluloid tantrum.
And that is all this film boils down to: an infantile tantrum, a squealing brat throwing shit at the walls in an attempt to get attention and then calling it art.
I am not of the opinion that horror films make people into monsters, cause moral decline or warp the minds of children – though I maintain an open mind. No, what disturbs me is that some people think this film really is GOOD. It is disturbing that people have become desensitised to violence to such an extent that they need this kind of extremism to ellicit an emotional response. For every person who thinks this film is good, who defends its artistic pretensions – I despair. It is bad enough that there was a market for this crap in the first place, without people pretending that it is anything more than the absolute worst kind of exploitation cinema.
People (including myself) watch for different reasons: morbid curiosity, a desire to be challenged, to be horrified or deliberately sickened. I started watching with the attitude that I would almost certainly switch off in disgust. So why didn’t I?
In some respects this is not a bad film. It isn’t badly made in technical terms: filming sound and editing are all acceptable. The acting is reasonable. The characters are sympathetic – if totally unbelievable. And the worst scenes were not as graphic as you might expect (thankfully). But this film is, in a word, trash. It is so utterly facile and bloated by a sense if its own brilliance that it ultimately seems utterly ridiculous. It tries to cash in on the most basic of human taboos – and it creates nothing but a degrading melodrama. It is because it is so blatant and tactless in its attempts to horrify that it fails so atrociously.
I was not traumatised by watching this. Nor am I racked with guilt. I am angry. This is a bad film – getting far more attention than it deserves because of 2 scenes that have not just raised the bar of what is acceptable in cinema, but hurled that bar into a cesspit. Not for any artistic, moral or intellectual reason – but for attention.
Had the scenes in this movie really been necessary, had they been present because they were – for example – exploring issues of abuse, then perhaps they would have been justifiable – even necessary. It is hard to imagine a scenario where this kind of gratuitous violence could ever aspire to anything more than base exploitation, but it may be possible. The director and producers claim this film is an allegory for the abuse of Serbia. So answer me this – had the film maker’s not explicitly said this was the intention of the film – would anybody have known? And further more: has this film sparked one single debate about the history or politics of Serbia? Of course not. If ever this film had pretensions beyond sickening and shocking its audience – and I seriously doubt that it had – then this has been lost, utterly eclipsed by discussions on the imperatives of censorship on one hand and the demands for increasingly debased entertainment on the other.
I urge you not to watch this. I’m not giving any details of the contents (for once) – you can discover that for yourself elsewhere – and if you are reading this, then I assume you probably know much of it already. I refuse to give this garbage any more exposure. I urge you to avoid this NOT for the sake of your mind, health or soul – but because it is beneath you. You are better than this movie. Ignore it and maybe it will slink off back to the gutter where it belongs.