Thursday, November 25, 2010

Torture Porn Comes Full Circle

It's not often that I suggest people don't watch a film, ever, for any reason. Even if a movie is terrible, odds are there's some redeeming entertainment factor to be found it. It's even rarer that I recommend people not watch a film when it's fantastic... that just wouldn't make sense, would it?


What I can tell you is this: A SERBIAN FILM is the single most deplorable, disgusting, and offensive piece of filth I've ever laid eyes on. I honestly can't decide if that's a compliment or not. But I do know that you shouldn't even try to watch it.

Fuck The Guineapigs and forget Grotesque. Spit on your copy of Nekromantik and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre before you kick them to the curb. Pay no mind to those August Underground cunts and their abuse of the very word "cinema verite". Even undisputed masterpieces of offensive cinema like Nacho Cerda's Aftermath, Bo Arne Vibenius's Thriller: En Grym Film, Ruggero Deotato's Cannibal Holocaust, Tai Fei Mou's Men Behind the Sun, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò: 120 Days of Sodom, and Karim Hussain's Subconscious Cruelty have been completely usurped as the very best in totally offensive cinema. These are all entertaining and impressive films in their own right, don't get me wrong, but what makes them so endearing and fascinating is that they were designed specifically to transgress the boundaries of sex and violence in the name of art and entertainment... but none of this matters anymore. It honestly doesn't. Because the rules have just been broken, and this time by a film that goes so far above and beyond the quality of its' fore-bearers that even the best of them look like cheap and poorly made smut in comparison.

There is one film I've intentionally neglected to compare this to, and that's Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, perhaps the very first film from a master director to weave legitimate substance into imagery of explicit human degradation, and to do it in the name of art, not cheap sensationalism. It's hard to look at A Clockwork Orange in this era of internet porn and terrorist snuff videos and feel that same feeling of revulsion and anger that audiences must have felt from that X-rated exploration circa 1971. Watching A Serbian Film is the closest thing I may ever get to understanding how audiences felt the first time they watched Malcolm McDowell jovially sing show tunes as he abused and raped his fellow man nearly 40 years ago, and with every border of good taste and sensibility that's been crossed, I don't honestly know how easy it'll be for any future director to ratchet the stakes up even higher. Literally the only thing missing in A Serbian Film would be if the actions on-screen weren't simulated, and had that been the case, the film would actually be the pornographic snuff film that it so convincingly pretends to be.

Director Srđan Spasojević and his co-writer Aleksandar Radivojević have done exactly what they set out to do, and that's create the single most vile film in existence. The writer has suggested that the film is an allegory for the abuse that Serbian citizens have suffered through these last two decades, but I don't know nearly enough about the Serbian/Bosnian conflicts and the abuse of decades' worth of the government's absolute power that entails to figure out if this is just him fishing for artistic legitimacy or not. That's not to say that even pointless trash can't be entertaining, but I swear if anyone ever said "The Passion of the Christ is a deep and important film" to my face I'd slap them. The subject matter of a work of art is meaningless; it's what you do with it that matters. Either way it's allegorical status irrelevant, as the film is written, acted, and shot with all the finesse of a respectable Hollywood feature. It's a "real" movie, and would have been a fascinating work even if it hadn't gone half as far as it does, which alone means it's outclassed most of the works that inspired it.

That's a big part of what makes this so much worse than any similarly themed film to have been made before it: If the offensive imagery and constantly horrifying story had been the work of amateurs who didn't know how to make a well-constructed piece of cinema it'd be easy to ignore this as an attention grabbing stunt with no justifiable substance. But that's not what we have here... it's am expertly crafted and properly aimed fragment grenade of everything evil in the world, and over 104 minutes it shreds your being to nothing, reveling in every taboo any society holds. Absolutely nothing is off-limits here, and every facet the film violates is literally driven right into our skulls with blunt force.

I'm calling it now, the so-called "Torture Porn" genre is officially over. That's not because the subgenre was ever socially irrelevant, but because there is absolutely nothing else it could ever do to offend audiences after this film - odds are more a slightly accessible American film will simply rip the same imagery off a few years down the line, and the rest of the world will agree with me on this. If the goal of the post-millennial wave of polished gross-out exploitation films is to continually one-up the competition, A Serbian Film has literally done it all, and left nowhere for this style of horror to go but down. A few years ago I had a conversation with a man who's very stock and trade is horror films predict that there were only a few taboos left in the genre, and this film managed to hit all three of them he listed... and it keeps reaching for more until the credits roll. This simply is the sickest shit I've ever seen, and for the first time in my life I don't want to show it to the people I know - because they don't deserve to feel as dirty and empty as I do right now. Without exception, I love the people I've forced to watch Philosophy of a Knife and Cannibal Ferox, and I put those films in front of them because I thought they would - for one reason or another - enjoy themselves in the process. The people that I entertain with disgusting films may never see this film, because I don't think I can provide it for them... suffering this atrocity of images and sound alone isn't easy, not for me at least, but offering it to others is like handing them a gun and telling them to shoot themselves in the part of their brain that knows what "right" and "wrong" are. I won't prevent anyone from pulling the trigger on themselves, but I don't know that I can be a part of it myself.

A Serbian Film has been cut by nearly 5 minutes, and even swapped out some footage in the United Kingdom, so avoid the British DVD and Blu-ray versions. If you're a sick enough fuck to even attempt to watch it, watching it censored is an utter waste of your time. Frustratingly, that seems to be the only legitimate video release, so god-awful looking screener rips are your only option outside of the festival circuit. It's also been banned in Spain - or at least parts thereof, and I don't know of any other countries that have picked up the rights yet. Honestly, I can't think of a single US distributor with the cajoles to release this, so maybe if I could divorce myself of how fucked in the bloody mouth this film is I could make a mint selling it...

As I said before, I don't think I can actually recommend that anyone ever watch this film. Some of you reading this already have, and some of you will regardless of what I have to say. I know curiosity is a powerful force... but I won't tell any of you that you should see it. It's vile. It's nasty. It's the first time a film has ever made me want to stop watching it... I mean, for fuck's sake, the third act starts with- no... no, I don't even want to say anything. The more I say, the more people will want to watch it, and that isn't really my goal in spilling my guts over how this wretched piece of grue has made me feel. If you aren't already interested, you shouldn't be. If horror films are a drug, this is a gallon of liquefied PCP being shot into your piss hole, and the guy doing it to you has told you that you will not live. This shit is unlike anything I have ever seen, and even puts the most famous of the erotic-grotesque works of Waita UZIGA to shame... though I will admit that his greatest work seems to have been a strong source of inspiration here.

Sure, I know it's only a movie. Actors behind cameras playing make-believe. But movies have power, a certain intangible quality that makes the audience care about those artificial scenarios, and it's because I care about these real people playing make-believe that I can't recommend this film to anyone... it destroys them in ways I've never seen a film even try before, and does it so completely that even the last 30 seconds of the film are, all by themselves, more horrible than virtually any other so-called horror film's entirety.

I think I need to cuddle up on the couch and watch something heartwarming to settle my nerves. Something like Martyrs, Antichrist, or maybe even Forced Entry. That's right, the porn flick about the shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who anally rapes women at gunpoint would be a breath of fresh air right now. Seriously, that would have the same calming effect on me that a kitten purring and licking my face would.

Perhaps I'll feel differently tomorrow. The film has been over for less than an hour, and I'm ranting about it while the scars are still fresh and oozing... I'm glad, too. Because the longer I wait, the more I might forget this unique feeling of being offended and violated by a piece of entertainment I myself wanted to see. This is a feeling I honestly can't remember, not one that was so sincere and concrete... alas, this is what I've been looking for, for at least a decade now. And now that I have it, now that I've broken that final seal that only "extreme" cinema could ever even chip away at, I feel myself unsure if I can ever look back at anything in the same way.

I'm now slightly curious how the similarly themed Serbian feature The Life and Death of a Porno Gang stacks up. It sounds like its' very much a predecessor to A Serbian Film, but with how little attention it seems to have recieved I can't imagine it's anywhere near as powerful.

What, you thought this experience would make me give it up? Go easy on the borderline snuff entertainment? Feh! I got into this mess because I'm something of a gonzo-horror aficionado, and don't plan to give up just because one movie finally managed to hit me in a place I didn't even think I had anymore...

...in my heart.





DON'T say I didn't warn you.

I think that I might just love A Serbian Film. But I love all of you even more. And that's exactly why none of you should ever see it.

5 comments:

Shin said...

There was basically a lot of genocide in the Bosnian War. I remember a news report about finding the decapitated body of a boy who had been raped and had his genitals cut off and put in his head. The point of the news report was not the horrific nature of the crime. It was that it was COMMONPLACE.

olbertfrog said...

Saw at Cannes film festival.
I felt the same as you after.
Unlike you i'm no fan of the genre, and whatching pointless exploitation flick is not my cup of tea.
before going in i knew what i was up to but the whole metaphorical aspect interested me. Thing is that interviews after interviews the people behind that movie proved to be only brats with the only intention to self promote, et provoke by any means necessary.
The thing that "saved" from being really angry at that movie is that the fact that some moment are pure stupid comedy. How can it be anything else when you have a training montage and you a pov from a rising dick looking itself in a mirror ^^
You have to "prepared" or kind into the backstage of movie magic, to have a distance toward whats happening in the movie.
Otherwise i think this movie i think could really damage you.

BTW whats up with Melos?

Kentai 拳態 said...

Olbert: If you still have the DVD-R copies (or even the LD), eMail me and we'll work something out so I can get back to work on Melos ASAP.

The short version is I was transferring files back and fourth between hard drives and a bunch of stuff was lost in the process. (The sync was screwed up anyway, though I'm worried that might have been my fault for using "new" software to edit everything together.) I sent you a PM a few months back, but it must not have gone through for some reason.

There's absolutely a sense of humor in A SERBIAN FILM, that same vein of pitch black comedy you find in films like Tetsuo and Subconscious Cruelty. It's a secondary aspect for me, though... like a slight minty aftertaste after swallowing a gallon of bile.

Shin said...

http://www.cracked.com/article_18895_7-things-from-america-that-are-insanely-popular-overseas.html

The images in #5 are way worse than anything in A Serbian Film.

Anonymous said...

you talk alot. I read the first 5 paragraphs and you already convinced me to watch this. Good post, nice find, blah blah blah can't wait to see this and desensitize myself for the moment one day in life when I will maybe probably (don't hold me to this) kill someone. Nomnomnomnomnom. If there's a rape scene, IM GONNA MASTURBATE!!!! hahahahahahahahahaha