Sky Wikluh “Rigor Mortis”
noun: a social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.
I am about to embark on one of the most heinous undertakings ever known to man. In a matter of hours, I will be sitting down to soak in Srdjan Spasojevic’s notorious A Serbian Film and I’m a little unsettled to say the very least. Never one to shy away from controversial material, I have ensured that the version I am about to watch is the full 104 minute cut and anything less would be simply unthinkable. However, I am not expected an easy ride and Spasojevic’s film will likely leave me with an overwhelming urge to bathe at three o’clock in the morning. Am I a sucker for punishment? Guilty as charged. Am I dreading my planned expedition? More than using a cheese grater as a masturbation aid. Would I have it any other way? Negative. If you are about to defecate in a public subway then you may as well make it runny. I am not under any illusion that 104 minutes in the company of Miloš will leave me feeling as bright as a butterfly. But, if a job is worth doing, then it is damn well worth doing conclusively. Half measures have never really interested me you see.
I think the first movie that really made me feel dirty was Wes Craven’s The Last House on The Left. By current standards, this may well be par for the course, but when you consider that this arrived in 1972, perspective suddenly becomes all too clear. Enjoyment wasn’t one of the benefits of hanging out with Krug and friends. At no point during 91 genuinely upsetting minutes did I laugh out loud, other than through nervousness and the knowledge that Craven’s film could never be unwatched upon completion. While I made it to the end credits intact, my first consideration afterwards was to run myself a nice soapy bath and spend the next hour scrubbing furiously so as to remove any stubborn grime. A good night’s sleep didn’t help much either as, the next morning, I woke up feeling just as filthy. So I did the only thing I could think of to cleanse myself and watched Peter Chelsom’s delightful rom-com Serendipity to restore order.
I am under no illusion that A Serbian Film is in the same stratosphere as The Last House on The Left and the murky themes explored alone make that seem like a Pixar flick by comparison. It has been a long time coming as I had the opportunity to watch this back in 2010 when it first materialized but something has held me back each time it has entered the running. I believe that my hesitancy has been spurred on by the fact that I know this movie will change me forever. It won’t turn me into a sicko as I vehemently stand by the belief that my destiny is my own and not dependent on any Serbian filmmakers who choose to push the envelope. However, chances are, certain visuals will remain lodged uncomfortably in my psyche until my dying day and that is why timing has been everything. Whether or not it lives up to its hype as the most depraved piece of celluloid ever to be shat onto the marketplace is neither here, nor there. If I watch a film, I invest wholeheartedly, and that is proof enough that I won’t be getting off lightly.
Opinion for A Serbian Film seems divided into three separate sub-groups. There are those who consider it abhorrent, exploitative filmmaking which should never have been made. Those who consider it abhorrent, exploitative filmmaking that is admittedly well-made and can give credit where it’s due, and those who consider it abhorrent, exploitative filmmaking of the highest order and watch it on incessant loop as it is so much darned fun. I believe I will fit the middle demographic and will not allow my own personal feelings to shape my appraisal. If it has merit then I’ll be digging deep to find any positive points and drag them to the surface, regardless of whether or not I have booked myself in for a lobotomy the next day. This is where any critic owes it to themselves to act completely without bias. Filth such as A Serbian Film likely won’t be making it easy but I owe it to my readership to tell things the way they should be told and not climb onto my soapbox purely because it turns my stomach.
I love grue like the next man, perhaps more so, and off-screen kills are the equivalent of being thrown out from sex education lectures just as we get to the penetration. The bloodier, the better is my philosophy but what is proposed by Spasojevic is more than simple splatter. Dealing with understandably taboo topics such as pedophilia and necrophilia, it delves into the deepest depths of depravity, and does so totally unapologetically from what I hear. Am I feeling nervous right now? Never more so. It’s akin to watching a double bill of Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik 1&2 then following it up with a screening of Nicole Kassell’s The Woodsman, only condensed into just shy of two hours. Five years it has taken to take this trip and, while I’m fairly assured I won’t be packing my bags for a Serbian vacation any time soon, I fully intend on taking this one for the team. The things I do for you Grueheads.
It takes all sorts. Certain members of my family, namely all of them, can’t begin to fathom why I would travel to such shadowy places and I can see their point if I’m brutally honest. However, I also watched The Lego Movie recently and it didn’t make me want to build a town out of construction bricks. Sure, film can entertain, but it can also challenge too and I’ve never been one to shirk from a good challenge. Even I have lines that I won’t cross and five minutes of Stephen Biro’s American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore was enough to last me a lifetime. My reasoning wasn’t because it was reprehensible. Any movie bearing that mantle was evidently not going to supply a picnic hamper and napkins. There was precious little artistic merit on exhibit and I made the decision to stop there as time is precious and 73 minutes of inept sickness just didn’t particularly appeal. A Serbian Film, on the other hand, is more inviting a proposition, albeit marginally.
Wish me luck. I am in for a rough ride for sure and may well be weeping like an infant by the time this movie unspools. By this time tomorrow, the likeliness is that I will be watching John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale rub noses in Bloomingdale’s and still shuddering over what I have been exposed to. However, at least I will be able to strike this bad boy off my to-do-list. Taboo it may be, deplorable it unquestionably is, enough to make a grown man wretch I would say is a given. But, in the words of a certain 1972 marketing campaign, “It’s only a movie!” They may well be inscribing that on my tombstone. Second thoughts, after watching A Serbian Film, I think I’ll be opting for cremation.