Thursday, 13 October 2022

A Serbian Film (2010) - a review of extreme horror for Halloween 2022


I decided to do a review of extreme horror for Halloween for my blog.  Just randomly, out of nowhere. This is the one I chose - and knew nothing at all about it before watching, except that people always mention it when they talk about films that have gone too far. It was apparently banned in 46 countries at one point.  And its not for the gore, though there is some.  It's for extended scenes of extreme sexual violence.  And …I saw the edited version with 4 and a bit minutes cut out, and I can see exactly where they went from.  

    This has to be the most thoughtful film I’ve ever seen about porn, porn stars and what people pay money to see. Power, who has it, with what lies and evasions and greasy money are they keeping it. Its very easy to see this extreme film as politics of the region at a time of great violence, in microcosm. Propoganda, its construction.

Tiny plot bit: Milos was the hero, a retired porn star, one last job.  It’s a live action torture porn snuff film, which he didn’t realise.  Then he is drugged with a sort of Viagra that kicks out your memory too, and spends the rest of the film finding out what he did in the missing time.   

    It gets worse and worse, of course.  But other reviews I read had most people feeling he had become a monster.  He didn’t.  He was drugged into being a machine; he was already a bit of a performance machine.  It wasn’t his fault, he never would have been so violent if he wasn’t insanely drugged. The minute he realised, and saw he couldn’t fix the [IMO] justified multiple murders he did to the film makers, and the heartbreaking rape of his own wife and small son, he kills himself and them. His brother was the real monster; he didn’t do it for money. He was jealous and wanted what wasn’t his. And Vukmir, the filmmaker, a child psychologist. He was properly mad or evil or sociopathic or all of those. And the security guards too. They all knew what was going on and sometimes participated.  Lives were very cheap in this film, and women were beautiful holes. Especially when their teeth are all pulled out.

It’s subtle and interesting that I felt such sympathy for a porn star  - an antihero to some of society? - who did that horrible angry man porn face during the clips of his early films, and yet was actually peaceful and trying his best to live a good life, with his family in the present.  The need for the money suckered him in.  Money – what it makes us do?  Fevered drugs or emotions, what they make of us.  What people do when they have no choice, or are fooled or high; the people who seem to be at the edges of our world to pull you under and make you swim with their bloody minds, till yours is drowned.

This was hugely well made, shot and acted.  It  - due to the censor edits – didn’t drive me away, and I really can see where those 4 minutes went, and it makes the film more watchable, those scenes being gone; what remains has some very very effective small sound effects: you don’t need to see. I can think more clearly about it not having seen the missing bits. The film said a lot about what beauty is and isn’t; what’s real and fake; why a person can’t be an object to another; what’s valuable and what isn’t. About transactional interactions with people – they have to be clear for both sides, and agreed on, to work.  Politics and life rarely work that way. And you can’t help thinking of war crimes when you watch this. And Yugoslavia and all that went on there during its disintegration.

This film is a velvet shot sledgehammer, a bit like arguing in a pub with someone very clever but drunk enough to get very shouty and determined to win the argument by taking everything to its logical conclusion.  Or, like Harry Enfield says: “is that what you want? Cos that’s what’ll happen!”

I wouldn’t watch the uncut version, so there’s my recommend: if you want to clearly think about this, watch the edit. And it’s not just shocking, it’s too well acted for that.  It’s thought provoking.  

     Update: And the next day, here I am thinking its similar to Clockwork Orange, just more overtly violent and less stylised. Also I think my brain is going to take a while to wash this one through. 

    And another update: it's January 2023, and this film won't leave me.  I'm still worrying at it.  When people do bad things while drunk or otherwise high and say they can't remember, I'll always think twice now, maybe they really can't? I always thought that was a huge copout and way of taking no responsibility for what you'd done by pretending you don't remember; but maybe some things are too horrible to sit with.  They aren't you, yet you did them. I feel there is some overarching truth here, that I've not seen in any other horror film, despite my years of watching them.



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