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Thinking About The Grotesque – ‘A Serbian Film’

Thinking About The Grotesque – ‘A Serbian Film’

Thinking About The Grotesque – ‘A Serbian Film’

‘A Serbian Film’ is a genre-melting flick that will make you totally moody and borderline mad.

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The Spanish artist Francisco Goya portrayed full-on, sexed up and super-crazed images of executions, objects of terror, child rape, cannibalism and bestiality. Countless Rococo paintings give us masturbation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, prepubescent girls using dogs in weird ways, trysts with every age. The art of Japan is rife with hentai/manga orgies, freaky, fetishy four-ways, sexual transgressions and all-out insanity. But Srđan Spasojević’s ‘A Serbian Film’ (co-written with Aleksandar Radivojević) flagrantly breaks every, single taboo out there. It is a mindfuck of a movie that will throttle your psyche and suck out your soul.

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Forget Ichi the Killer, Grotesque, Hostel and Irreversible. A Serbian Film has been dubbed the most disturbing, grotesque horror movie out there. And it is. Made back in 2010, the intervening years have done nothing to diminish its raw power and pestilent, totally fucked up nature. It is the seminal avant-garde smut flick to date, a hyperbolic allegory about festering corruption in former Yugoslavia and a balls out exploration of man’s capacity for evil.

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The film was outlawed in 46 countries and, believe it or not, about 20 minutes of it was cut out for being “too hardcore.” It depicts love, hate, porn, pedophilia, necrophilia, murder, rape, torture, art, avarice, existential angst and all the snuff stuff that you’d have to access via Tor Hidden Services, i.e. the dark web.

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Characters like Vukmir (a sadistic and hell-bent auteur – above), Milos (a struggling ex-porn actor cast into a mysterious ‘art film’ – below) and Maria (a doting mom and damsel in distress – above with child and bloodied face) are fragile humans and toxic monsters. They are all drawn into an unimaginable maelstrom of devilish cruelty and cinematic hell that is orders of magnitude more wicked than anything you can possibly think of.

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Stylized and self-conscious, super-violent and shocking, A Serbian Film is diabolically-grotesque art. And even though watching it will corrupt your brain and haunt your dreams, it serves a useful purpose: to initiate social awareness and to shock us out of our comfy homeostatis. The film is nasty, nihilistic and nightmarish, to be sure, but in a way that kicks you in the teeth and gets you questioning the nature of things, good, evil and everything in between.

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Nasty and depraved concepts are derived from an ugly malformed part of the imagination. As humans we externalize macabre realities and sinister story lines all the time. The ‘grotesque‘ in modern culture and cinema is a function of real-life horrors and existential fear (relationships, politics, war, psychosis, etc.) and, in Serbia’s case, the inner/outward expression of the beastial conflict that engulfed the place in the decades following Tito’s death.  

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The grotesque is alive in films like A Clockwork Orange, Nekromantik and The Human Centipede; it is at the heart of dada and surrealism, Gwar’s gore porn and Necro’s death rap. The most grotesque and risqué images of modernity include Picasso’s prostitutes, Dali’s self-cannibalizing creatures, Hans Bellmer’s mutilated dolls, Francis Bacon’s tragic anatomies, Klimt, Munch, Egon Schiele, Matisse and much, much more. A Serbian Film is similar — only far more visceral, hair-raising and hardcore.

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Anyway, sitting through A Serbian Film is like performing vivisection on your mind, body and spirit. It is a grim, creepy, filthy piece of work that uses horrendous representations of torture and sexual violence to call attention to the fact that the human condition is capable of atrocious acts and agonizing sacrifice. Like art imitating life, it exists on the edge beyond words, in a Kafkaesque place that situates us at the nexus between innocence, absurdity, guttural taboo and artistic freedom. Do not watch this film unless you want to contemplate  on a deeply dark and distraught level  disaster, evil, and all the negatives of human existence. “Newborn porn!” Yukand wow!

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Images via ‘A Serbian Film‘ – Српски филм, 2010 – directed by Srđan Spasojević + Aleksandar Radivojević

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