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A Serbian Film

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A Serbian Film

Invincible DVD and Blu-ray

Porn, a child’s exposure to porn, explicit sex, physical abuse and degradation, explicit sex in front of a child, pedophilia, forced drug use, rape, murder, necrophilia, more physical abuse and degradation, torture, more rape, more murder, yet more murder, more rape, and several other things too horrible to really get into here, truth be told, including more rape and murder. And that litany of incidents doesn’t even begin to explain why Srdjan Spasojevic’s 2010 A Serbian Film is so transfixingly disturbing.

Just relaying the premise leaves a bad taste. Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) was once one of Europe’s top porn stars but he’s mostly left behind the stud-for-hire life to spend time with his lovely wife Marija (Jelena Gavrilovic) and their sweet young son. The promise of a role so lucrative he could retire for good tempts him to sign on with eccentric director Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic), script unseen. What seems at first like just an arty porn shoot is soon revealed to be a next-level snuff film. As the star, Milos can’t be killed, but neither can he be let out of his brutally enforced contract.

It would be something of a comfort to be able to dismiss A Serbian Film as exploitation trash, venal junk designed to shock and make a quick buck. But like recent outrage-cinema sensations Martyrs and The Human Centipede (First Sequence) before it, it’s a bit too smart and well crafted for that. Though A Serbian Film appears to be Spasojevic’s first feature film, he pulls it off with evident skill and polish. This is no careless arrangement of 21st-century Grand Guignol set pieces; you actually start to care about aging, hangdog Milos, and you fear for no-nonsense, good-hearted Marija. Even more formidable than plot and characters, A Serbian Film comes armed with a few ideas, about film and other things. While all but the most jaded viewers will likely find themselves fumbling for an “unsee” button on the remote at some point, ultimately Spasojevic’s film is more disturbing for what it makes you imagine/think about than what it actually shows you. And damned if the director (who co-wrote with Aleksandar Radivojevic) doesn’t slap you across the face in a vulnerable moment with the thought that he’s made you watch all this just to make a savage satirical point about Balkan victimhood.

Watching A Serbian Film might prove a little tricky. Netflix has declined to stock it, and neither iTunes nor Amazon offers it for download or streaming. And the (unrated) version released on disc in the States is apparently missing around 10 minutes of footage from the original cut. Which prompts a lingering and uncomfortable thought: What could be so awful that it got left out of this?

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