“I never believed in censorship… until now,” I wrote to a colleague after seeing A Serbian Film, attempting to steer him clear of it. (I failed.) But hearing that a toned-down version is set for release provided occasion for reconsideration. First-time director Srdjan Spasojevic’s horrific little film—made, yes, in Serbia, and subsequently banned there (and elsewhere)—is about a family man (Srdjan Todorovic) lured out of porn-star retirement for one last, hush-hush job.
Censored or not, the film’s relentless degradation will put images in your head you’ll long to erase, whether seen or imagined. (What the mind conjures up in reaction to the unspeakable concept of “newborn porn” is potentially far worse than what we’re actually shown here. Or not.)
I swore never to write about this film for fear that it would only pique perverse curiosity, as my reaction to The Human Centipede so frustratingly did (failure number two and, most likely, three). But in fact there’s no comparison. Both are hype-machines, but A Serbian Film is far superior—Spasojevic’s direction and Todorovic’s performance are admittedly remarkable. Yet, subversive political statement or not, it’s such a stinking pile of trash that viewers will need a lifelong shower after enduring it. Despite all the nastiness, though, it never gives itself over to pure evil, something that the—dare I say it?—amusing opening scene paves the way for. Or maybe that’s the human psyche’s safety net talking. But we don’t, after all, turn to these movies for safety.