Originally published on That Moment In
A Serbian Film is a 2010 horror film about an aging porn star who agrees to participate in an “art film” in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film.
How many times have you questioned your own or someone else’s sanity for sitting down with a cup of tea and watching a film like A Serbian Film (original title Srpski Film)? It seems as humans we are ruled by our own morbid curiosity for the disturbing corners of the world, ones that should never be explored. Not everyone has the inclination to watch such scenes, but even those who won’t go near extreme horror films are still fascinated by those who do and want to know the gruesome details of these nasty films so they can squeal and squirm and exclaim how messed up said viewer is.
With a penchant for films that are considered the worst of the worst, I want to explore these extreme and exploitative films that push the mind beyond limitations and boundaries, and take us to a disturbing place where there is no return. Looking at the psychology behind why some of us are intent on inhaling this disturbing and scarring content, we start with a film that has caused controversy and rage amongst many audiences: A Serbian Film.
Would you believe that if you search for A Serbian Film online, it’s categorised by Google as a thriller / mystery movie? I’m more than certain that there is a point to argue here about it being one of the most horrific horror films to exist, especially for mainstream audiences who have not heard of the underground extreme films that are available to watch. For those of you who have avoided all synopsis’ of the film, it follows an aging porn star, Milos (Srdjan ‘Zika’ Todorovic), who is offered one last job that will provide him with the means to look after his family for a long time without having to struggle for anything. Unbeknownst to Milos, the “art” film delves into the most obscene acts of depravity including paedophilia and necrophilia.
To give you an understanding of the strength this film has to incite anger and rage in those without any knowledge around the background of A Serbian Film, I will present you with a situation that happened to me on a train with a stranger. When traveling with a friend, we started discussing horror films and the man sat opposite us decided to join in the conversation. All was proceeding well until he brought the film into discussion and asked whether or not I liked said film; of course I answered yes, which was met by a threat from him, that anyone sick enough to enjoy such a film should be taken out of this world. Understandably he had some deep-rooted issues of his own, however his passion of hate and disgust towards the film was an appropriate conclusion to how many people with no concept of extreme cinema perceive such a film.
So what is it about A Serbian Film that could be considered the most boundary pushing? There are a plethora of scenes that stand out including the decapitation of a woman during sexual intercourse, an eye socket being used like a fleshlight and a woman who dies from being raped by a metal pole. What is witnessed throughout this film are some of the most vile and torturous events, yet human nature compels many of us to push past our inner morals, and continue watching these depraved acts. However, it is one moment in A Serbian Film that has truly caused outrage, and for reasons that anyone in their sane mind would deem completely and utterly acceptable: the “Newborn Porn” scene. In this scene the audience are subject to witnessing a woman give birth, and then pass her newly born child straight to a man who is ready and waiting for consummation.
It is horrific. So why does the audience watch with curiosity and wonder at this obscene act? Even those who do not ever want to witness this, will ask others exactly what happens in the scene, or search online for the written details that descriptively help them to envision the brutality that prevails without having been privy to the actual act. But why push past normal boundaries that keep us in line morally? Human nature dictates that we are drawn to the macabre and have been long before films with such atrocities existed; we used to find amusement in freak shows, news channels are littered with the gruesome tales of paedophilia and murder and most people are obsessed with anything that describes the heinous crimes committed by serial killers.
When so much of society is already filled with real scenes of extremely disturbing content, it seems quite tame to sit down on a Friday night and watch A Serbian Film, because after all, it’s only a representation of what really happens in the world, but crafted from special effects. The director of A Serbian Film, Srdjan Spasojevic, has always noted that his film is a commentary on the state of the Serbian government, and that their politics are essentially there to ruin your family with their scheming ways from the moment you are born until the moment you die, and when conceived in this manner, it becomes abhorrently clear that this film is an outstanding example of this.
The audience are pushing their boundaries and accepting the scenes of newborn pornography because it is quintessentially built into our DNA to be morbidly fascinated with everything that holds us morally accountable, because we live in a society that has always been trying to find ways to push boundaries and escape from conformity. Either that or we truly are just messed up individuals that probably need to seek help from psychotherapists.