victim sells

– . – Victim Sells


It’s one of the most controversial films of recent times, the most cut film of the past 16 years, and has sparked industry-wide debate about censorship and art. Now director Srdjan Spasojevic cuts through the hyperbole to reveal just how A Serbian Film faces the beast of our times.

Probably the last Serbian film to receive broad international attention was Emir Kusturica’s Underground (1995). Like Kusturica’s bleakly comic national epic, Srdjan Spasojevic’s feature debut is also an allegory of the exploitation, despotism and internecine conflict that have plagued Serbia’s recent history, baldly advertising its state-ofthe- nation themes in its title and underscoring them in dialogue that regularly relates the film’s hyperbolised events to the lot and legacy of ordinary Serbs. Yet where Kusturica’s film gathered festival awards (including Cannes’ coveted Palme d’Or), A Serbian Film has instead been attracting what, for a ‘foreign language’ film, can prove a far greater international currency: controversy.

In A Serbian Film, former porn star Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) is lured out of retirement by well connected director Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) to make an impossibly lucrative movie for the foreign market—only to realise, too late, that he is destroying himself, his wife and his young son. Spasojevic’s thesis, illustrated with ithyphallic abandon, is that to be Serbian is to be fucked from birth to death, and part of this is expressed through a now notorious scene in which a newborn baby is raped the moment its cord has been cut.

Unsurprisingly, the BBFC has responded with some cutting of its own. This sequence, for example, has been reduced to the sound of the infant crying and a series of reaction shots, while other compulsory cuts (49 in total) have shrunk the film’s original duration by 4 minutes and 11 seconds, removing anything which the BBFC has deemed to be ‘violence or sexualised violence which endorses or eroticises the behaviour’ or ‘portrayals of children in a sexualised or abusive context’. With these cuts goes a certain amount of scene-by-scene coherence, which may well leave some confused viewers imagining far more graphic depravities than were ever originally depicted. Yet, cut or uncut, A Serbian Film remains a confronting and disturbing piece, not least because of the way that its reflexive film within-a- film structure implicates all of us, as viewers, in the onscreen atrocities.

Speaking to movieScope, however, Spasojevic is quick to point out that his film contains no actual pornography, and stresses that its stylised world is a metaphor for Serbian life. “In the last few decades of political nightmare in this region, and several wars, we’ve brought ourselves to the point where we consider our lives as pure exploitation.




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