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‘A Serbian Film’: Not torture porn
December 1, 2010 1:48 PM   Subscribe

A Serbian Film: Not “torture porn” but an allegory of civil war. Reputed to be a frightening, unwatchable movie reminiscent of torture porn, A Serbian Film (IMDB listing) is actually, according to Jim Henshaw, “exquisitely shot and beautifully designed.… There is no explicit sex and many of the worst horrors are clearly fake. This is not a film that panders to fans of horror or porn, but it definitely is about exploitation.… [T]en minutes in you realize what you are really watching is a re-creation of the Serbian experience of the Balkan wars…. The horrific scenes described above and others that I found far more unsettling are clearly the atrocities of the Balkan conflict moulded into horrific set pieces within the metaphor of a porn film gone horribly wrong.”
posted by joeclark (58 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Unless Dee Xtrovert has something good to say about this, I'll pass.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


War is fucking disgusting. Your next door neighbor who has given you the nicest gifts might be the kind of guy in war to rape grandmothers for fun and bets.

People become different in war, and anything that demonstrates it, gets approval from me.

The less glamour it has, the more realistic a war portrayal is.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2010


That review was fascinating, especially as he claims to have no time for the whole torture-porn road horror movies have gone down.
I'm not sure I see the value though, and won't be seeing it myself. If it's not made for fans of the grotesque to revel in, then what IS the point? Because nobody else will ever see it.

I guess what I'm saying is that torture-porn is probably a bad medium for conveying any serious message to a large audience. Seems obvious in hindsight. I have a very difficult time believing that the motives behind the film's creation were as pure and ungratuitous as the reviewer seems to feel they were.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:00 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


My father used to tell us some of the things that he would see while on in deployment, but ever since he went to Afghanistan and Iraq he's stopped talking to us about it. He won't even talk to my mother.
I always wonder, looking at him, what is inside that head. He's told terrible things- piles of bodies big enough that, from a distance, they look like huts. His friend being shot and falling, dead, on top of him.

I hope people see this film- if only to understand how terrible war is. That it isn't Call of Duty 2 or some big glory game. I think too many people believe that and they go into the military and then they see what it's really like and, by that time, it's too late and the damage is already done.
posted by lauratheexplorer at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Every generation must have its Salo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I agree with Henshaw's take on the film, but I think "there is no explicit sex and many of the worst horrors are clearly fake" is a bit of a stretch. The scenes where the guy is screwing the woman and decapitates her while continuing to screw her, and the one with the gigantic dude raping a newborn infant, aren't exactly acted out by sock puppets. I guess there's no explicit sex or realistic violence in the film in the same way that there isn't explicit sex or realistic violence in Irreversible.
posted by Pants McCracky at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2010


There is no explicit sex and many of the worst horrors are clearly fake.

Ugh. I've watched this movie (well, not quite all of it -- I skipped some of the middle) and that is a totally untrue statement, unless Henshaw saw a different version.

I understand the war metaphor and either read or watched a (translated) interview with the director (it was awhile back), who despite his eloquence did not do a particularly good job convincing me that it was anything but torture porn.

Truly one of the most awful things I've ever seen. It disturbed me so much that I saw it when I tried to go to sleep that night. And not because I was haunted by the imagery or the message -- [TRIGGER ALERT] but because I watched a scene where the main character sodomizes his son TO DEATH. (Oh, and then there's a scene where they do a snuff film...horrible. Just horrible.)
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2010


Oh, and yeah...the newborn scene. Just...ugh.
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:07 PM on December 1, 2010


So, I was interested as to what the big shocking thing in this movie is. I hate the whole torture porn genre, but I'm pretty steeled to "shocking" things.

From what I could gather on IMDB and Google. This is it.

I will pass. Forever.
posted by lattiboy at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2010


On preview: I should've just said a baby gets raped.
posted by lattiboy at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2010


Yeah, anyone who wants to see the film should just google Serbian Film screener -- that's how I found it.
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:10 PM on December 1, 2010


Geez. This thread is beginning to veer towards torture porn.

Feeling a sick that I read this far. cowboy_sally, I appreciate the trigger alert in your comment.
posted by salishsea at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2010


I always wonder where the line is, if there is a line, between showing scenes of reality in an effort to warn or educate and showing so much that it has a negative or even opposite effect.
posted by Avenger50 at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This film is just 8MM made by people who have no idea what the concept of "restraint" is. The only interesting thing about it is, how good (technically) it looks and sound - especially for a first time project, especially from a wartorn Eastern Block country.

As a technical exercise it succeeds, as a film its possibly the most mean spirited, horrible load of crap I've ever seen. I felt dirty after having seen it.
posted by cerulgalactus at 2:16 PM on December 1, 2010


This film is just 8MM made by people who have no idea what the concept of "restraint" is.

You just described 8MM.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have read some reviews of A Serbian Film. It didn't seem to be as clear to other reviewers that the whole thing was a metaphor for war.

I wonder if the context in which the reviewer received the film, and the time at which he watched it (he refers to Wikileaks quite a bit) perhaps colored his perception?

At any rate, not having seen the thing myself, I'm guessing that its banning had less to do with THEM not wanting the people to see the real horrors of war as much as the, uh, child rape and stuff.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2010


Or torture porn.
posted by londonmark at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2010


The only interesting thing about it is, how good (technically) it looks and sound - especially for a first time project, especially from a wartorn Eastern Block country.

I am in agreement there. Those are some Oscar-worthy prosthetic penises.
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:30 PM on December 1, 2010


I saw this. I did not need to see it. I kinda wanted to unsee it after I was done. And I'm a horror superfan.
posted by eugenen at 2:50 PM on December 1, 2010


I would argue that torture porn genre is inherently linked to nation's sense of itself during a time of war.

The first SAW film was released some five months after the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib. It's followed by films like HOSTEL and the like that seem to call attention to the fact that in these films it is the Americans who are being tortured, the implication being... "instead of the other way around."
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 2:55 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


and many of the worst horrors are clearly fake.

If only.
posted by atrazine at 3:10 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Aw, hell, cowboy_sally, I really wish you hadn't mentioned that screener. I Have to Know.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:13 PM on December 1, 2010


I guess what I'm saying is that torture-porn is probably a bad medium for conveying any serious message to a large audience. Seems obvious in hindsight. I have a very difficult time believing that the motives behind the film's creation were as pure and ungratuitous as the reviewer seems to feel they were.

Having lived (barely) through the war herein metaphorically depicted, I have pretty strong feelings about this sort of thing. I attended what may have been the first screening of this film in America.

My feeling is similarly to that in the quoted passage above . . . these filmmakers are wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. As a metaphor for the savagery of war, the film does not work. I don't think anyone who viewed the movie saw it as anything more than a particularly grotesque film, except for a few who were delighted by what they saw as a pro-Serb message.

I suppose that the most succinct comment I can make is that the film is exceedingly popular with nationalist Serbian youth, who take great pleasure in some of the scenes (like one where a woman is viciously raped and then executed 'as she deserved' for betraying her husband, who was a hero in the Serbian army.) I have Serbian friends who are embarrassed at the film and the minor stirring-up of hateful nationalism that it evidently caused. Given that, the film's purported "message" not only failed, it excited and attracted precisely the wrong audience, and for all the wrong reasons. This would have been one thing had the ethnic angle not been the central point of the movie but it was and pointedly so - witness the title. Idiot kids misinterpreting something is one thing, but as others have pointed out, the "message" was lost on most reviewers, and frankly, I had to really stretch my brain to even see how the anti-war thing was really even possible.

And I am, sadly, all too-well acquainted with much of the film's symbolism that is probably lost on many non-Yugoslav war survivors. To me, the film isn't any real different from a situation where a German video company would make a video game, where the player is an SS guard hunting down and executing Jews, and where the manufacturer claims that this is to show you how horrible war is . . . if it's not out-and-out bullshit, it's cretinously conceived at best.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:56 PM on December 1, 2010 [35 favorites]


I've seen it. I thought about it being a metaphor for war as I was watching it. But the damage is done. I can't unsee it now.
posted by Sailormom at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2010


I must be totally, utterly depraved or something, because I don't understand why people have horrified reactions to this movie. This movie is fucking hilarious. It is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time! And the thing is, it is clearly intentionally funny. The slowly escalating series of astonishingly awful events is like the bleakest, most ridiculous shaggy-dog story ever told, and the last scene of the movie is obviously meant to be blackly hilarious. The description in the FPP is exactly right: if this were realistic, it would be unwatchable. But it isn't: it's told in a gonzo, over-the-top way that makes it incredibly delightful.

Now, I definitely understand that most people won't want to see a movie that has such . . . um, extreme material. But as a fan of horror and extreme cinema, this is one of the best movies I've seen in years. It's incredibly well-made, the script is tightly written, the acting is extraordinary, and the film as a whole has the kind of go-for-broke, over-the-line energy that I sorely miss in genre filmmaking. It's a stunning work of genius, and I've been very disappointing to see it written off as just "torture porn."
posted by Frobenius Twist at 4:52 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I must be totally, utterly depraved or something, because I don't understand why people have horrified reactions to this movie. This movie is fucking hilarious. It is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time! And the thing is, it is clearly intentionally funny. The slowly escalating series of astonishingly awful events is like the bleakest, most ridiculous shaggy-dog story ever told, and the last scene of the movie is obviously meant to be blackly hilarious. The description in the FPP is exactly right: if this were realistic, it would be unwatchable. But it isn't: it's told in a gonzo, over-the-top way that makes it incredibly delightful.

That's exactly how I feel about Gaspar Noe's I Stand Alone, which I swear is one of the best, funniest black comedies ever; I don't feel the same way about this one, though I get where you're coming from completely. The problem I have with A Serbian Film is that it starts out feeling quite realistic, and I think it could have had a lot to say about exploitation and life in that part of the world and...well, and all kinds of things. But from the

SPOILERS

absolutely preposterous baby scene onward, any pretense of seriousness is chucked out the window in favor of one over-the-top moment after another. Taking the second half of the movie seriously is like taking Oldboy or Inside seriously...you can do it, but it requires suspending a lot of critical judgment, and it won't make you any happier. I can't say for sure whether A Serbian Film is meant to be funny -- I think it's very possible that the filmmakers just dramatically miscalculated the breadth and number of sharks they would have to jump to get there -- but I do think it's a disappointment after an incredibly strong, and mostly not that disgusting (!) first hour. I almost wonder whether they went into it planning to make a much more realistic film and wound up doing something...else. I don't know, but I would much rather have just seen a film that flowed, um, logically from its first half.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:39 PM on December 1, 2010


You've sold me, Frobenius Twist. I can't believe I'm soon going to be chuckling away while watching a baby rape scene.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:39 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a metaphor for war, it sounds like this may be misconceived. As an exercise is button-pushing, this sounds like it shares the perverse genius of The Human Centipede, with better production values.

I don't know this says about the world we live in now. But people are really, really good at horrifying each other, and it's definitely something where every generation demands something more extreme than the previous. I shudder for my grandchildren.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:55 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know whether this helps, UH, but it's more like a waving-a-baby-doll-around scene. The viewer is required to produce much more closure than s/he would, for instance, to piece together what's happening to Janet Leigh in the shower stall in Psycho. I don't think you'll be chuckling, but it's very very obvious there's no real baby.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:01 PM on December 1, 2010


Well, my computer just ate a long and detailed comment so let me just say that, while I agree with Frobenius Twist on the positive aspects of the film, I certainly wasn't laughing while I watched it. in fact, about six weeks after seeing it, it's still very much in my thoughts (particularly the final line, which seems to have rather staggering implications, it seems to me) - and I love gross, evil, and disgusting films. Even so, this was some seriously heavy going, all the more so for the way it bypasses so many of exploitation's usual shortcomings.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:18 PM on December 1, 2010


Dee Xtrovert: And I am, sadly, all too-well acquainted with much of the film's symbolism that is probably lost on many non-Yugoslav war survivors.

I would love to hear more this symbolism. Everything I've read about this film has been written by film critics, none of whom were familiar with the area or it's history.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:29 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that the metaphor of war is not in the film, and looking for it in the film you won't find it. It's not there.

The metaphor for war is the fact that people watched this, and paid for it. It's perpetrating unspeakable violence for money - arguably a goal of war.

This is actually worse than war. Pro war rhetoric speaks to the noble cause, even if it's only thinly disguised. The practitioners of war do some horrible things because they have been unleashed by twisted moral relativism. But at least there is rationalization, even if flimsy and disingenuous. There is a tiny flicker of pretend legitimacy in war, regardless of how bad the violent acts perpetrated in its name are.

Violence for money is bad. Extremely horrific violence for money is prurient and base, and cannot ever pretend to be anything but. There is no excuse for this - literally.

On the other hand, did anyone think they should have titled this movie "The Aristocrats II"?
posted by Xoebe at 6:37 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


LA Zombie didn't come up in a metafilter search just then, which surprises me.

It's a gay porn gore zombie flick. I read a review but I can't remember if the zombies fuck you up the ass, or you kill the zombies by fucking them up the ass.

LA Zombie banned from Melbourne film festival | Zombie porn director 'delighted' by ban
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:47 PM on December 1, 2010


It's gotta be the zombies fucking their victims up the ass, right? I mean, if you think about it, if there's like this massive swarm of zombies, there's just no way you can fuck them all up the ass, regardless of how much you want to kill them or how much you just want to fuck a zombie up the ass. It's not gonna happen. So I mean, that can't be it. That wouldn't be fair.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:55 PM on December 1, 2010


Violence for money is bad. Extremely horrific violence for money is prurient and base, and cannot ever pretend to be anything but. There is no excuse for this - literally.

You could say that about Saving Private Ryan, to name but one example. I mean, no film can contain extremely horrific violence?

Here's an interesting interview with two of the filmmakers after a showing at the Alamo Draft House for the 2010 SXSW Festival.

I downloaded the copy I watched BTW so no money changed hands.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:11 PM on December 1, 2010


One thing this movie also covers is the idea of Porn as Art, which really is an ethos in the former Yugoslavia. Seriously. Porn conventions often have the same atmosphere of gallery showings: wine, hors d'oeuvres, opera clothes, and actors and actresses fucking on rubberized mattresses. This may be a cultural feature in other parts of Europe but I wouldn't know.

This idea of porn as highbrow entertainment is communicated very explicitly in the film. It may seem pretentious conceit, and it is, but it's not a conceit of the film. So when you think of A Serbian Film as a metaphor for "war as porn" be aware that this is the kind of porn it's talking about.
posted by clarknova at 7:32 PM on December 1, 2010


I lived in Post - war Bosnia for a year among people who survived the Real horrors of that war. I knew people who lived through the Siege of Sarajevo. One of my neighbors was Munira Subasic.She and I regularly rode the same bus into town,I can tell you that if there is one thing that would really upset these people,and it is something which really upsets me, is the exploitation of this war. Angelina Jolie was going to be in a film about some woman who was raped by her Četnik captor and then they fall in love. The Women Victims of War Association and my Srebrnica survivor neighbor proteted this travesty. the Bosnian government forbade fil
making this film in BiH. So probabably it will be filmed in Hungary. These kinds of films do not educate anyone. No one who sees either film is going to come away knowing more about the recent wars. It's just a crass, tasteless way of making money.
War is not glorios. War is full of rape. War is full of plunder. It's not a joke. Frankly that porn has taken that kind of turn ought to scare all of us. Porn does not need violence like that.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:26 PM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


do not want
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:26 PM on December 1, 2010


Seconding what stinkycheese said about wanting to know more about the symbolism, and also:

except for a few who were delighted by what they saw as a pro-Serb message. ... the film's purported "message" not only failed, it excited and attracted precisely the wrong audience, and for all the wrong reasons.

Can a film that depicts Serbs as inhuman monsters really be called "pro-Serb"? Can the merits of a film, or any work of art, really be judged based on what sort of people like it? I ask these questions as someone who is frankly nauseated by this entire genre, and has no intentions of seeing this film.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:20 AM on December 2, 2010


except for a few who were delighted by what they saw as a pro-Serb message. ... the film's purported "message" not only failed, it excited and attracted precisely the wrong audience, and for all the wrong reasons.

From what I understand "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" from the musical Cabaret is un-ironically used by some neo-nazis as an anthem. I'm in no position to comment on the artistic merit of the movie since I haven't seen it, but some people will latch onto any depiction of their group identity and try to make it positive, or they are especially attracted to what we'd consider negative because they want to be that fearsome or as a coping technique for positive self image.
posted by Phalene at 7:30 AM on December 2, 2010


But again, that makes me wonder what relevance that has to the film in itself. Terrible people liking this movie, or that industrial band, or this book doesn't necessarily say anything about the movie, band or book. I mean yeah, of course it sucks if Serbian nationalists are supposedly latching onto this film as a rallying cry, but is the film-maker responsible for that? I doubt it, unless that was his expressed intent.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:50 AM on December 2, 2010


I was going to FPP about this, but I wasn't sure how to explain the controversy surrounding this film without disclosing details that might be very upsetting and possibly triggering to some. IT is the most cut film ever in the UK - a film reviewer friend is going to see the uncut version.
posted by mippy at 8:13 AM on December 2, 2010


But again, that makes me wonder what relevance that has to the film in itself. Terrible people liking this movie, or that industrial band, or this book doesn't necessarily say anything about the movie, band or book. I mean yeah, of course it sucks if Serbian nationalists are supposedly latching onto this film as a rallying cry, but is the film-maker responsible for that? I doubt it, unless that was his expressed intent.

In this case, these things do say something about the movie.

If the filmmaker's "intent" is for this film to be a metaphor for the horrors of war, or Serbian aggression, then the filmmaker has failed, in that few people - if any, really - are seeing that side of it after watching the film. More disappointingly, some people are taking the movie to mean something completely opposite of what the point was meant to be.

Is the filmmaker responsible? Frankly, in this case, I think so. First of all, as "metaphor," the film is hopelessly muddled (at best.) Second, among Serbs of a genocidal nationalist bent, the sorts of things depicted in the movie are widely and perversely regarded as aspects of pride. Arkan, to some Serbs, was a war hero not for winning battles per se, but for winning them while raping women and children, and for the grotesque methods he used to torture and kill civilians. It's a particular form of monstrosity that real-life 'torture porn,' denied or hidden or even unthinkable to people in most wars, was often highly regarded by nationalist elements in the three Serbian wars of the past two decades. Did the filmmakers know this? Of course they did, we all did. So they had a responsibility to create their supposedly metaphorical film in such a way as to make it clear to the monsters out there that this film was not a continuation of that. They failed, if you consider that they were even trying. I personally believe that they deliberately sought out to capture this audience.

Last, an interview in Serbian with the scriptwriter sees him claiming "I am furious with myself for allowing such a rape of the eye and mind. Yes I am furious because I really expected art, but I got a cheap story filled with useless and senseless violence."

Terrible people liking the movie would be one thing if it were a gross misunderstanding of what the movie was attempting, but when even the scriptwriter says it's a piece of shit, well then it really does come down to the filmmaker.

Like any group of people, most Serbs are fine folks, and Serbia, to its credit, has decided that the movie need not be shown in public.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:30 AM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I assume it's widely available through underground means (or internet), then? According to my interview link, the filmmakers claim the film has not been shown in Serbia.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:51 AM on December 2, 2010


Like any group of people, most Serbs are fine folks, and Serbia, to its credit, has decided that the movie need not be shown in public.

Well, as I mentioned above, it's definitely the case that this movie is not for everyone. But it is also incredibly well-made and well-written, regardless of what the writer says. I also strongly resent that I would be considered to not be "fine folks" for loving this movie, and it is not to anyone's credit that an impressive piece of art has been censored. Censorship is never to anybody's credit, especially when the censors fail to see that this is movie is satire. This is similar to congratulating people for censoring Swift's modest proposal, because "good folk" would never approve of cannibalism!

I agree that the filmmakers' statements regarding war are totally bizarre. There is nothing in this movie that would make me think that it was a parable for warfare. But a work of art stands on its own regardless of what its makers say.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 11:34 AM on December 2, 2010


Dee Xtrovert: "If the filmmaker's "intent" is for this film to be a metaphor for the horrors of war, or Serbian aggression, then the filmmaker has failed, in that few people - if any, really - are seeing that side of it after watching the film. More disappointingly, some people are taking the movie to mean something completely opposite of what the point was meant to be.

Is the filmmaker responsible? Frankly, in this case, I think so. First of all, as "metaphor," the film is hopelessly muddled (at best.) Second, among Serbs of a genocidal nationalist bent, the sorts of things depicted in the movie are widely and perversely regarded as aspects of pride.
"

If I understand what you're saying here, the film-maker is responsible for Serbian nationalists getting all excited about this film because his intent was muddled and few if any are seeing this film as depicting the horrors of war. I'm not sure this sits well with me. First, because reading the synopsis alone gave me the impression that this could very well be a metaphor for the war. It doesn't take a great stretch of imagination to arrive at this conclusion. But putting that aside, more importantly - I've just seen way too many artists, film-makers and musicians who have muddled messages get blamed for the terrible things their fans do or have done.

This is of course not to say that the film-maker shouldn't be taken to task for producing a sickening mess of a film. It's when we start getting into pernicious influence territory that I start to get nervous.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2010


If I understand what you're saying here, the film-maker is responsible for Serbian nationalists getting all excited about this film because his intent was muddled and few if any are seeing this film as depicting the horrors of war. I'm not sure this sits well with me. First, because reading the synopsis alone gave me the impression that this could very well be a metaphor for the war. It doesn't take a great stretch of imagination to arrive at this conclusion.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time arguing this, since you haven't even seen the film, don't appear to have much real knowledge of the war, local attitudes about it, etc. For the record, the writing in the link of the original post is a joke. (Among other things, the writer perceives the war as a "civil" war, when in fact sovereign and internationally-recognized nations were invaded by another nation. The writer also tries to create a false equivalency of war crimes, when in fact these were incredibly lopsided in nature, and every single internationally-recognized body able to judge such things wholeheartedly agrees with that assessment. The writer, too, has bought into the filmmaker's American-media statements without actually doing any real analysis of the film in relation to events of the war. And given the fact that the writer appears to be unaware of even basic facts of the war, well, there's not really any "there" there, is there?)

I'm not saying that the filmmaker is responsible for Serbian nationalists getting excited about the film because his intent was "muddled." I believe, rather, that the filmmaker knew exactly what he was doing and probably succeeded in his real intent. His "expressed intent" I believe to be a lie of convenience. He tells a drastically different story about this film to American reporters than the one he tells to Serbian reporters.* These two stories in no way complement each other, either. The screenwriter, among other people involved with the film, feels betrayed by the film. That says something about the filmmaker which goes beyond simple disappointment on a film turning out poorly. The film was technically accomplished to the point where giant 'mistakes' - like failing to assume that the sort of torture-porn admired by young Serbian nationalist freaks would somehow *not* attract them here . . . well, to believe that was a genuine fuck-up defies the common sense of all the sane Yugoslavs I know who've seen it. In short, it would be pretty impossible to make a film this accomplished on technical levels and so completely blow all the common sense stuff. There is a lot of symbolic and populist stuff in the movie that resonates positively with nationalists, it's not there by accident.

-------

* In a Serbian interview, the director says of the newborn-being-raped scene, "It's supposed to be absurdly funny, but if you like, I guess it's just a way of saying to get ready, child, you're going to be fucked by big dicks your whole life long." He goes on to describe other scenes of violence, and at no point does he even come close to saying anything about war as a metaphor. Sadly, in America, some people have bought the whole anti-war metaphor hook, line and sinker. Some without having seen the film.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know, I like satire. Especially challenging satire. But I've also found that whenever someone tries to justify making a really shitty book/movie/painting/etc. that just seems to have totally missed its mark, they always respond to their critics with, "But it's satire!" Dude, if you have to explain to everyone that it's satire, then you've failed at satire.

I wonder if I'm getting too old for this sort of stuff. Ten years ago, I could eat lunch while looking at Ogrish. But I can't imagine being able to sit through this movie and come away enjoying it.
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:25 PM on December 2, 2010


Spoilers ahead:
Thanks for your comments, Dee Xtrovert. I too found the whole Serbian conflict "metaphor" idea pretty suspect when I watched the film. Simply put, there's no equivalencies: Milos does what he does because he needs money to support a family, is drugged and/or mislead; very little of the 'bad' Milos perpetrates may be said to be of his own doing or have anything to do with his choices.

I think my own interest in the film lies more in the motivations of the character of the director and his rather mysterious investors; sadly, much of his/their lines were either deeply cryptic or else absurd on their face. Not much help there, hence my interest in any Serbian/regional media or commentary.

The final line of the film suggests an inverted [I don't know what word to use here -- direction? taste? morality?] that, if followed through to its logical conclusion, would result in anyone truly believing it to commit suicide (embracing death or emptiness) so far as I can tell. I just don't see how you'd get up every morning, eat breakfast and set about living your day through if your drives were so deeply reversed from the norm as some of the characters in this film.

Even despots, serial killers, sociopaths, and genocidal maniacs have some semblance of joy sometimes, do they not? The director character possessed this in his love of film and its artistic and political possibilities (I believe his final line was something akin to "this is cinema!") but it seemed completely absent in the men he was working with. They seemed more like robots programmed to do wrong, and I wish they'd been sketched out a little more fully, maybe given a few more lines. They were more fascinating by far than the director (who more or less came off as 'simply' nuts).

I say all this after only one viewing. I haven't been able to watch it a second time yet.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:47 PM on December 2, 2010


I'd be interested in reading what the screenwriter wrote (though I'd only be able to read it in English, which makes an already unlikely prospect pretty much cosmically unlikely). My strong sense was that the second half of the film violated a very strong, very realistic first half, and my guess now is that these halves weren't even written by the same person. The director is a fine filmmaker, but I hope he leaves the writing to others in the future (said future, I presume, will involve moving to LA and remaking Pumpkinhead or something no later than '12.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:27 PM on December 2, 2010


Dee Xtrovert: "I'm not going to spend a lot of time arguing this, since you haven't even seen the film, don't appear to have much real knowledge of the war, local attitudes about it, etc."

For the record, Dee, I wasn't trying to have an "argument" with you but to better understand your point, and your casual dismissal of what you think I know about the conflict is totally unnecessary and not entirely accurate. I thank you for going deeper into where you were coming from, and only wished you had done so without insulting me, as it was totally unwarranted.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:45 PM on December 2, 2010


But I've also found that whenever someone tries to justify making a really shitty book/movie/painting/etc. that just seems to have totally missed its mark, they always respond to their critics with, "But it's satire!" Dude, if you have to explain to everyone that it's satire, then you've failed at satire.

This is completely off-base. Have you seen the movie? It's obviously satire! Most of the horrible shit that happens isn't shown in gory detail, because that would not be funny. It is hinted at, or emotions play out on the characters' faces; and that is much more effective, and much more funny. For example, as kittens for breakfast mentioned upthread, in the infamous baby scene, the baby is obviously a doll, and not even a very lifelike one at that. This was clearly an intentional choice by the filmmakers: the scene is intentionally unrealistic, because realism wouldn't be satire: it would just be gross.

Anyhow, it's strange to me that so much ink has been spilled about this movie by people that haven't seen it but are all too eager to judge it.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 7:14 PM on December 2, 2010


I don't know if by "ink" you mean comments in this thread but that's Metafilter for you; there's nothing people won't be happy to offer a comment or criticism of, no matter little experience or knowledge of same they actually possess.

I had considered doing a post on this film but figured it would basically turn into a round of shaming and being told how sick (and/or redundant) any interest in it was.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2010


Frobenius Twist, I have watched the movie. I said so above. I have seen a lot of gory movies, but if you're telling me that watching the blood poor out of a little boy's anus after his father rapes him unconscious, or watching a man fucking a woman from behind, chopping her head off, and continuing to fucking her isn't particularly gory or brutal in comparison to other supposed horror films, then I'm wrong and you're right, I guess. But I wouldn't mind a list of the ones that are worse.
posted by cowboy_sally at 11:04 AM on December 3, 2010


stinkycheese: "I don't know if by "ink" you mean comments in this thread but that's Metafilter for you; there's nothing people won't be happy to offer a comment or criticism of, no matter little experience or knowledge of same they actually possess."

I don't know if you're including me in this blanket assessment of the site, but I'll clarify anyway that a) I don't need to watch the movie to know I would have a very, very difficult time watching even a fraction of the things being described here, for personal reasons, but that isn't a judgement of the movie in itself, and b) I was trying to address and get more elucidation on the entire POV of an artist being responsible for how fans react to his or her creation. The reaction I got was quite different from what I was hoping and a bit disappointing, but oh well. People leap to conclusions, as you say. Shit happens.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:07 PM on December 3, 2010


MSTPT, sorry if you took my comments as an insult. I've liked many of your comments in the past and bear you no negative feeling whatsoever. However, you got ahead of yourself.

You wanted to argue whether an artist should be responsible for the misappropriation of his / her art, which might be a fine subject for another post.

But that argument was poorly applied here. Not only did you not see the film in question, you showed no signs of havung been able to recognize symbolism willfully used by the filmmaker (recognizable in some places even from the synopsis.) Unless you can read Serbo-Croatian, you are unable to spot vast contradictions in the filmmaker's "expressed intent" depending on his audience with whom he discussed it. You didn't deal with the fact that few, if any, audience members were able to see this film as meaningfully anti-war. Or that even the screenwriter saw no artistic metaphor in the film.

In short, there is plenty of evidence that the filmmaker found exactly the audience he was seeking, and very little evidence that this work was just wrongfully misappropriated by idiots. Your discomfort with the idea that an artist is responsible for his audience's misreading of his work is pretty meaningless when he finds exactly the audience he was hoping to attract.

You could, in theory, argue that I am the one who was wrong about the artist's intention, but neither you nor anyone else has actually offered up anything to support this, aside from a press release and an interview or two, wildly (and convenient geographically) contradicted by other press releases and interviews by the same person. So what's the point of your argument relative to this film?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:11 PM on December 3, 2010


My "point" was less a point and more a question - to what extent can we say this film-maker is responsible for some of the fans he's attracted. As I said, you did answer this question in greater detail, and I do thank you for that. That's really all there was to it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:50 PM on December 3, 2010


Also, no hard feelings; I know it's not the easiest subject for you, and I also apologize if I appeared glib.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:51 PM on December 3, 2010


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