First off, believe the hype about this one. It is singly the most brutal, depraved, horrifying, uncomfortable (insert any other adjective or synonym) film I've watched to date.
And yes, I watch them all. From Martyrs, Cannibal Holocaust, Irreversible, Men Behind the Sun, Audition, Antichrist, Salo, to The Human Centipede, and a host of others, I've sought out and watched every single one. Yes, most of them deliver on what is promised, and yes, most of them are truly depraved and rest among the darkest side of horror film and cinema, in general.
A Serbian Film, in a director of lesser skill, would've been a disaster.
Let's talk about art first -
Art is: The creation of works of beauty or other special significance.
Art should be designed to make the reader or viewer feel something, be it revulsion, sorrow, happiness, pain, or awe.
In relation to cinema, there's been many attempts to claim certain hardcore, disturbing films are art, and yes, some of them truly are. Even with the violence, the gore, and the sexual depictions, there was something the director and/or writer were trying to say. Some excel at this, others, not so much.
It's hard to shock me, as a viewer or reader. I, myself, have written some pretty graphic fiction. It made me uncomfortable, but I did it because it served the story. You see, for something that is graphic, gory, and depraved, there has to be an element of storytelling, a reason for the depictions on the screen. If there isn't, then it's nothing but shock value.
A Serbian Film delivers on all accounts. It's an engaging story line, it's beautifully shot and framed, it has a intriguing main character, and a mind fuck of an ending. Yes, everything you've heard about this film is true. Yes, there is a newborn baby rape scene. Yes, there is child rape. Yes, there is necrophilia. Yes, there is gore, and a host of other depraved acts. But at its core, it is a well made, engaging movie. It's storytelling at its zenith. There is shock value, yes, but it serves the STORY. It’s the story of a washed-up porn star, Milos, desperate to provide for his wife and young son, and when an opportunity arises to pull in serious cash, he jumps at it. It's the story of what a man is willing to do to provide for his family. The thing that makes this story work is that Milos is an already jaded, washed up porn star, he's seen some shit, he's done some nasty shit, but when he's confronted with what the director of this new venture he's asked to partake in, he's disgusted and appalled. That's key here, for this movie, he does not do the following things (about an hour into the movie) willingly. Yes, he does them, but as the film unfolds, we see the who, the why, and the how, all this takes place and THAT'S where the storytelling skills and direction of Srdjan Spasojevic becomes readily apparent. There is true filmmaking prowess and understanding at work in this film, as difficult as it is to watch, you willingly follow this filmmaker down the dark, depraved alleys he travels.
This film truly disturbed me, and that's saying something, but it was a fascinating watch. Yes, it's graphic and depraved, but your mind will supply even more detail than what is actually shown on screen. Yes, there is a ton shown on screen, and it's unsettling and difficult to watch, but what isn't shown on screen is what will really fuck you up. You're shown just enough and the director leaves the rest up to your imagination, as he should.
I can't say I enjoyed A Serbian Film, but I can say I enjoyed watching an excellent filmmaker making art, as uncomfortable as that was.
Watch at your own risk, this film will stay with you for a long time. It is truly disturbing, it is truly the height of taboo and depravity and it cannot be unseen, but it is art, and it is true art, despite the medium and method of telling.