It didn’t seem possible to shock more than “The Life and Death of a Porno Gang” (by Mladen Djordjevic, 2009) but “A Serbian Film” (by Srdan Spasojevic, 2009) did it. Obviously these films are companion pieces. They actually form a trilogy with the film “Made in Serbia” by Djordjevic, which is sort of a documentary prequel to his The Life and Death of a Porno Gang.
Needless to say these films are cries of despair and one must ask the question “what’s going on in Serbia?” Has it become a masochist society, so used to being raped that it is now self-perpetuated? Has it reached the nadir of a state of moral decay? Will it continue to be punished by foreign powers and orphaned from civilization?
It’s no coincidence that the porno magnate in “A Serbian Film” is a child psychologist working in an orphanage. These films by these two young directors are classic “cries for attention” that should not go unheeded — the type of cries that lead to the danger of suicide and/or rage projected externally. Therefore the real question that must be asked is “what can be done to help Serbia?”
As far as filmic critiques “The Life and Death of a Porno Gang” is more cogent and measured. “A Serbian Film” aspires too much to shocking genre tropes, though that doesn’t rob it of its power — it just threatens to let viewers off the hook and not take it seriously. Both films are moving and they both ruthlessly engage with the world they exist in, which ultimately vindicates them.
One is reminded of Tupac Shakur’s acronym for THUG LIFE while watching these films:
“The Hate U Gave Little Infants Fucks Everybody”
America eats its young and so does Serbia. So the final line spoken in “A Serbian Film” is the most disturbing and also the key to understanding both works: “Start with the young one.” It’s a new genre: “newborn porn.” Also “stillborn porn.” You’re fucked either way in Serbia. This is why the penis becomes a literal weapon in these films.
There are no shortage of shocking and also grotesquely ironic images in “A Serbian Film:” a man holding his own penis hostage with a knife in order to escape his enemies; a newborn baby born and fucked into the world of porn on camera; a man being stabbed through his eye by an erect penis; a woman being choked to death with a penis and the list goes on…and this is just at the climax of the film.
Why are we made to look at these images? As the chicken hawk (or wolf) producer Vukmir Vukmir says in the film, this is what sells: victims and victimization. It is Serbia’s gross domestic product, its number one export. See? Everyone can participate in the capitalist project. It’s just a question of how far you want to go.