A Serbian Film: Is this the nastiest film ever made?
One US distributor fainted as he tried to leave a screening of A Serbian Film earlier this year, hit his head on the door and ended up needing stitches. The film’s British sales agent was left hurriedly trying to clear up the pool of blood.
“He was getting really disturbed and he felt he was going to faint. At the time, we were both sitting on the floor because the theatre was completely full. He tapped me on the shoulder and said I need to go. He got up and ended up fainting and collapsing,” recalls Thomas Ashley, the boss off Invincible Films, the US distributor for which the man worked.
What has proved alarming to censors isn’t just the imagery. It’s the fact that children are involved. Spasojevic clearly didn’t expose these children directly to images of torture, rape and death. However, the juxtaposition of children with such exploitative imagery is itself deeply unsettling.
There is a feeling of nihilistic self-loathing that runs through the film. In some eyes, after the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Serbia is still a pariah state. The alleged war criminal General Mladic has never been arrested. The memory of Slobodan Milosevic hasn’t been exorcised. Films like A Serbian Film and another equally extreme Serbian movie The Life and Death of a Porno Gang play on Western preconceptions about the country and can’t help but reinforce them. The very title of A Serbian Film suggests that the director and his screenwriter Aleksander Radivojevic are making an allegory about their troubled and isolated homeland. The screenplay is full of references to the corruption and squalor of family life in the country. However, audiences have been responding to it in stubbornly literal fashion and haven’t been slow to express their utter disgust.
Predictably, this disgust is now being harnessed to boost the film’s profile in the marketplace.