Well, here we are. A Serbian Film is a movie I once swore to myself I'd never watch. A movie with a reputation so massive, that I just knew it would mess me up. It required 19 cuts just to get an NC-17 here in the USA and it was actually banned in Brazil. People have said this movie would leave you feeling sick to your stomach, you might puke, it's the most vile, degrading, disgusting, gross-out movie ever. The way people talked about this movie, I thought it would ass-fuck my soul and leave me for dead. Well, I hate to say it, but it's not that bad. It's squirm-worthy, but not much more.
Let's face it, you're either looking for one more notch on your Sick Movie belt, or you're discovering extreme cinema and wanna test your limits. Maybe you even got dared to watch it. I don't know. I'm someone who's seen a lot of seriously messed up movies. They're thought provoking and I like stuff that makes me think. Whether they're happy thoughts or really dark introspective analytical thoughts, so be it. If you're like me in that sense, A Serbian Film will more or less be a walk in the park for you. I kept expecting the movie to hit a point where the brakes were going to fly off and it was going to be a non-stop assault on my senses.
It never hit that point. There's some really nasty vile scenes no doubt, but they're sorta spaced out somewhat. The main character, Milo, is an again ex-porn star who gets offered an obscene amount of money to come out of retirement and star in an artsy experimental porno flick. Little does he know there's going to be murder, necrophilia, pedophilia, and more. There's not really even names for some of the stuff that happens here. But to imply that it's all forced on the viewer with unrelenting fury is just not accurate. For most of the movie, Milo is in a daze. There's lots of distressed staring off into the middle distance, walking around looking upset, and a fair amount of brooding.
The movie has the pacing of a really docile roller coaster, it has big peaks, but gradual declines. It doesn't have the fast paced kinetic music video style editing that I suspected it would. It's also not a gritty home video looking movie either. It's surprisingly well-shot. The film's visuals and cinematography were handled deftly. It makes it feel like a movie and not just a shock fest. Of course the only way to spread word of mouth about a movie like this is to pitch it like a shock fest. Don't get me wrong, it has vile things in it you probably would be happier in life if you never saw, but it's still just a movie.
Thus, here's the problem with the movie... it looks too well made to be shock fest junk, and it doesn't have enough substance to warrant recommending it as anything else. It's just another notch on your Sick Movie belt. It was an interesting movie to watch, I wondered what- if anything -the filmmakers behind it were saying. Or what the cast thought of it. Stuff like that. But it's middle of the road fare that's not bad enough to write off entirely, and not good enough to recommend. That's just the objective opinion. I'm setting whatever shock value this movie has aside, and looking at is as a movie on it's own merits. It's okay. I've seen better, and I've certainly seen worse.
I checked the clock several times throughout the movie wondering when the fucked up scenes I'd heard about were finally going to appear. A lot of them didn't even show up til after the halfway point. What this movie does well is allow you to care (somewhat) about Milo and his family. It also allows you to emotionally keep them at arm's length so to speak, and any seasoned viewer will know exactly why. The acting is solid and the technical side of things is good, but the script is kind of haphazard. The last act is told through flashbacks and videotapes that Milo discovers, as such there's a really jarring disconnect that happens. We're pulled and pushed back and forth between the present and the past from so many points of view that it's just confusing and tiring.
It's not handled well, and would've been more effective if the events had just unfolded chronologically. All in all, it's a bleak, hopeless film that will undoubtedly continue to gross out and depress people. But if you're like me, you've already seen Cannibal Holocaust (a much better movie), most of Takashi Miike's stuff, Martyrs (also a much better movie), OldBoy (again, much better movie), Funny Games (do I need to say it again?), and others. So maybe it's worth watching to talk about objectively, but you're not gonna find anything horrifically shocking here that you haven't seen before in any of those, with maybe one or two brief exceptions.