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A Serbian Film (Serbian: Српски филм / Srpski film) is a 2010 Serbian horror film set in Serbia, the first feature film directed by Srđan Spasojević. It tells the story of a down-on-his-luck porn star who agrees to participate in an "art film", only to discover that he has been drafted into a snuff movie with child rape and necrophilic themes. The film stars Serbian actors Srđan Todorović and Sergej Trifunović. Upon its debut on the art film circuit, the film received substantial attention for its graphic depictions of rape, necrophilia, and incest.
The state prosecution of Serbia opened an investigation to find out if the film violates the law. It is being investigated for elements of crime against sexual morals and crime related to the protection of minors. It was banned by a San Sebastián court for "threatening sexual freedom" and thus could not be shown in the XXI Semana de Cine Fantástico y de Terror (21st Horror and Fantasy Film Festival).
Miloš is a semi-retired Serbian porn star with a beautiful wife and young son. Although strapped financially, his home life is happy, and his biggest problem comes in the form of the jealousies of his brother, Marko, a corrupt police officer who envies Miloš' family life.
Seeking one last big payday to make a clean break from pornography and secure his family's financial future, Miloš is intrigued when one of his former co-stars, Lejla, approaches him with an offer to star in an "art film" being directed by Vukmir, a well-connected, independently wealthy pornographer who wants to cast Miloš for his legendary ability to get and maintain an erection with no visual or physical stimuli. When Vukmir offers Miloš a large sum of money to star in the film, Miloš reluctantly agrees, ambivalent towards Vukmir's insistence that he must remain ignorant as to the plot of the film until shooting begins.
Miloš is picked up the next morning and taken to an orphanage where he is supplied an earpiece from the local sheriff. A voice speaks to him from the earpiece, giving him instructions on what to do. A film crew follows him around with cameras and puts him in various sexual situations to see how he will react.Initially, it seems that Miloš is participating in a standard reality porn, until he's led into a room and instructed to have sex with a physically abused woman while a young girl dressed like Alice in Wonderland watches. Miloš becomes enraged and refuses to continue, but is grabbed from behind and forced to stay. Later Vukmir shows Miloš another one of his projects: a film of a man helping a woman give birth to a baby girl; the man then proceeds to rape the newborn in what the director calls "newborn porn".
Miloš storms out to his car. There, he is approached by an attractive woman who begins to seduce him. Miloš suddenly wakes up in his bed three days later, bloodied and beaten and with no memory of what has happened. He returns to the set and finds a number of tapes. Viewing them, Miloš discovers that over the course of the previous three days, he was fed a mixture of drugs to induce a perpetually aggressive, sexually aroused, and suggestive state. Under the influence of the drugs, and at Vukmir's insistence, Miloš brutally beats and rapes a nude woman handcuffed to a bed while Vukmir tells Miloš that she deserves it for cheating on her husband, a Serbian war hero. In the climax of this scene, Vukmir instructs Miloš to slice the woman's head off with a machete in order to induce rigor mortis as he continues to have sex with her body. Another tape contains a scene in which Miloš is naked and chained to a bed face down. Two men enter the room, one holding a camera. The one without the camera begins anally raping the unconscious Miloš. The final tape depicts Lejla chained and hanging in the middle of the room, all of her teeth having been removed; a masked man enters the room and forces his erect penis down her throat until she apparently suffocates(loses consciousness).
Miloš follows clues from the tapes he has seen only to remember more horrific details about the three days he can't remember. Miloš was taken into a room and made to sodomize a body hidden under covers. The masked man enters and begins to have sex with another body beside the one Miloš is raping. The masked man is revealed to be Miloš' brother Marko, and the body he is raping is Miloš' drugged wife. The covers are taken off of the body Miloš is raping to reveal his own son, also drugged. A melee ensues during which Miloš' wife regains consciousness and Miloš manages to wrest a gun from one of Vukmir's bodyguards. Miloš' wife bludgeons Marko to death, while Miloš kills Vukmir and all but one of his bodyguards, which he only harms with two bullets shot in bodyguard's torso. Confronting the final bodyguard, Miloš knocks off his sunglasses and discovers that the man is missing an eye. He tries to shoot him but finds out that the gun is empty. Miloš jams his erect penis into the man's empty eye socket, killing him. He then knocks his wife unconscious and takes her and their son home, locking them in the basement before passing out. After remembering everything Miloš gathers his family into bed, he fatally shoots his wife, son, and himself. Sometime later, another film director enters, accompanied by another porn star and a film crew. The director instructs the actor to "start with the little one," prompting the actor to unzip his trousers.
Srđan Spasojević co-wrote the screenplay with the assistance of Aleksandar Radivojević, a well-known Serbian horror film critic best known for his work on the script of the Serbian blockbuster Tears for Sale. A Serbian Film is a domestic film specifically made for foreign presentation, one of many such works of Dragoljub Vojnov.
The first ever showing of A Serbian Film took place on March 15, 2010 at midnight in Austin as part of the 2010 South by Southwest. During the introduction by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema's owner Tim League, the audience in the theater was once again warned about the extreme nature of the scenes they were about to see and given one last chance to leave the screening.The following day, the film played once more.
Next came the screening at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film in April.
The film was due to screen on August 29, 2010 at the Film Four FrightFest in London, UK but was pulled by the organisers following the intervention of Westminster Council. Films shown at this festival are usually shown pre-certificate but in this case Westminster Council refused to grant permission for its exhibition until it had been classified by the BBFC. Following its DVD submission to the BBFC (there were no theatrical materials available in the timeframe requested for a proper theatrical classification), 49 cuts totaling four minutes and eleven seconds were requested for DVD certification. The UK distributor, Revolver Entertainment, initially looked into the possibilities of the process, but it became clear that the film would then have to be resubmitted to the BBFC and further cuts may then have been required. It was decided that to show a heavily edited version was not in the spirit of the festival and consequently its exhibition was pulled from the schedule. The film was replaced at the festival by Rodrigo Cortés' Buried starring Ryan Reynolds.
The Raindance Film Festival, that picked up the film at the Cannes Film Festival in May, subsequently held the UK Premiere and 'found a way around the ban by billing the screening as a "private event"'. The Sun tabloid described the film as 'sick' and 'vile' following the festival's 2010 Press Launch and Westminster Council requested to monitor the invitations to the screening. The 35mm print was shipped from the BBFC for the 8 October 2010 premiere.
On October 21, 2010, the film had a single screening at Toronto's Bloor Cinema. It took place as part of the monthly event called Cinemacbre Movie Nights organized by the Rue Morgue magazine. The publication also spotlighted the film and featured it on its cover.
From September 24, 2010, A Serbian Film began to be shown at movie theaters across Serbia in the uncensored form, with screening times scheduled late at night.
The film is scheduled to be released in the UK theaters on December 8, 2010 in the edited form, with four minutes and eleven seconds of its original content removed by the British Board of Film Classification due to "elements of sexual violence that tend to eroticise or endorse sexual violence". A Serbian Film thus became the most censored cinema release in Britain since the 1994 Indian film Nammavar that had five minutes and eight seconds of its violent content removed.
The film was released to great controversy in terms of its graphic and often sexually explicit violence. Screenwriter Srdjan Spasojevic has responded to the controversy with "This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government... It's about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotize you to do things you don’t want to do. You have to feel the violence to know what it’s about."
Scott Weinberg wrote "I think the film is tragic, sickening, disturbing, twisted, absurd, infuriated, and actually quite intelligent. There are those who will be unable (or unwilling) to decipher even the most basic of 'messages' buried within A Serbian Film, but I believe it's one of the most legitimately fascinating films I've ever seen. I admire and detest it at the same time. And I will never watch it again. Ever."
A more critical review came from Alison Willmore: "Movies can use transgressive topics and imagery toward great artistic resonance. They can also just use them for pure shock/novelty/boundary-pushing, which is where I'd group Serbian Film. That it comes from a country that's spent decades deep in violent conflict, civil unrest, corruption and ethnic tensions makes it tempting to read more into the film than I think it actually offers—ultimately, it has as much to say about its country of origin as Hostel does about America, which is a little, but nothing on the scale its title suggests."
Tim Anderson of the horror review site "Bloody Disgusting" likened the movie to "having [his] soul raped" and dissuaded anyone reading his review from ever seeing it, writing: "If what I have written here is enough to turn your feelings of wonder into a burning desire to watch this monstrosity, then perhaps I haven't been clear enough. You don't want to see Serbian Film. You just think you do."
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