Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Serbian Film (2010) - review by contributor Simon Opitz

Every week, we will feature a written review by contributor Simon Opitz. These reviews will be of a film the hosts of the First Time Watchers podcast have not discussed recently on the show. You can find more of Simon's reviews at


A Serbian Film 2010

[Rating: 3/5 Stars]

Its intense reputation is inflated by that one scene. Other than that it’s barely worse than, like, Antichrist or something. 

Right away, let me just say this is far tamer than I had been lead to believe. Nigh forgettable, I dare 
say. We basically just have the newborn porn scene, which was off-putting even to my masochistic 
sensibilities, but the wealth of negative reviews for reasons of being "disgusting" are completely 
unwarranted. Sure, it’s got other disturbing parts, but it’s FAR from being too much. I've only seen I 
Stand Alone by Gaspar Noe, but I consider even that more disturbing than this, because it's just more 
disturbing on a character level. Simply putting nasty shit onscreen is not inherently distressing to me. 

But that's not the film's real aim or anything, so this isn't really a knock on it.

Surprisingly standard in the story department, it’s elevated by its attention to multiple themes. It's 
about inherent sexuality vs innocence, the responsibility of parents in bringing their children into this disgusting world and preparing them for it, and exploitation vs art. It's just kind of frustrating that all of 
this has to take precedence in a narrative film. That's really the key thing that weakens it for me
Our lead is a man who needs to provide for his family gettin' back into the game for one last job. If it 
sounds like you've seen this before a million times, you have. There's not really an interesting character 
to set it apart. His potential conflict of trying to be a good father while simultaneously being an extreme 
porn star is there, but it doesn't actually play into the story at all. The characters are all fairly bland, even 
when they're psychopaths. Espousing crazy beliefs isn't really the same as being compelling.

The stakes, particularly in the third act, are just our lead trying to figure out what's going on. Earlier 
on it's more of a dilemma between the money and the ethics of getting it, which is once again a pretty 
common conflict. Thematically this speaks to Serbians being exploited as the only means to feed their 

It's a slightly dull film that relies mostly on a string of fucked-up shit to sustain it. As films like Salo 
and Spring Breakers know, it gets repetitive after a while and you get numb to it. Its metaphorical 
significance saves it though. I really can't stand the dismissal of this film as the exploitation it serves to 
comment on.

Pornographic films are used as a metaphor for all films here. Film is an art, not just a quick digestible
crapped out product. It should mean something, not just be something the masses can get their 
collective rocks off to/consume and quickly forget about. Given how applicable this is to the Hollywood 
crap factory, it's almost surprisingly this is, well, a Serbian film. But in a country constantly exploited, the 
art comes from suffering HARD. After all, what else are they good for? In this way the film is extremely 
meta, becoming its own excuse for its atrocities, justifying its existence.

The consistency and ease of exploitation is probably the best way to sum of the theme of the film.
Sexuality is inherent in everyone, so preservation of innocence is impossible. We're eager to leave the 
house but the world we enter is so fucked up parents' over-protection is understandable. Newborn Porn 
is an obvious metaphor for this instant corruption, this hopeless perpetuation of the cycle. Incest is a 
completely obvious metaphor for older generation fucking the younger one.

It knows that sex isn't an inherently fucked up thing, it too has been become dehumanized. It's 
supposed to be unique to a relationship, or at least not completely rampant. But, you know, in an 
exploitation oriented society etc.

That's another thing; it isn't really subtle at all. Its score makes it sound almost like it’s trying too hard, 
but I can't really imagine that being any different. All of its rumination is completely textual and surface 
level. If I actually knew a damn thing about Serbian politics, or especially if I was Serbian, I could imagine 
saying "duh" multiple times during this. It ultimately retains resonance beyond its borders though.

It's very nihilistic, but it's also very funny. Its comedy is one of the subtler elements, usually blacker than 
midnight and never distracting just for purposes of relief. The newborn porn scene is actually played 
for camp. Why do you think it’s called “newborn porn?” It's built into the tone, coming from how over 
the top everything else is, and sometimes you just can't help but laugh at the mugging or just some 
generally goofy element. Lars Von Trier has been known to do things similarly. This is actually a pretty 
key asset, because a film like this being completely joyless probably would live up to its reputation. 

Underdeveloped, I'd call it intriguing but not compelling. Most of its narrative qualities are just bland. 
Its political depth makes up for this, but not by enough that I'd really say it's unfair to malign it for being 
boring. It's ok; not great, and certainly not garbage.

Comparison point: The story of Kill List in the style of Antichrist, but not nearly as good as either.

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