EXCLUSIVE: “A Serbian Film” Director’s Biggest Regret

Srđan Spasojević participates in rare Q&A.

 

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What I consider the highlight of the 9th Annual Sacramento Horror Film Festival could very easily be someone else’s low point: On Friday October 9th, A Serbian Film screened uncut and in high definition for the very first time in America. Since its release in 2010, this movie has widely been considered one of the most shockingly subversive ever produced, and has been banned in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Norway, and temporarily banned from screening in Brazil. It should come as no surprise, then, that writer/director Srđan Spasojević is regarded as one of horror’s most controversial living filmmakers.

Movies of a certain age and impact may be discussed in their entirety; for example: After a number of years, it was finally acceptable to openly talk about the fact that the woman in A Crying Game is actually a man, and that Bruce Willis is a ghost in The Sixth Sense, allowing these shocking twists to enter popular discourse. Similarly, after 5 years, it can hardly be considered a spoiler to discuss that A Serbian Film contains baby fucking. While this is hardly the only exceptionally disturbing scene in Spasojević’s film, it’s certainly the most upsetting and divisive—even among horror fans.

untitledDuring Friday’s screening of A Serbian Film, no fewer than a dozen viewers walked out—a phenomenon I imagine is common at such events (rare though they are). Those of us able to endure all 104 minutes of extremely graphic and malevolent violence were left deeply affected; there was almost a sense of being bonded, like strangers who had just experience a shared catastrophic trauma.

As the theater lights came up, Spasojević took the stage, giving the audience an opportunity to look directly into the eyes of the man who had inflicted the film upon them. He’s tall and imposing in stature, lean yet muscular, sporting a military haircut; his responses to questions from the crowd were terse, and, at times, delivered almost grudgingly. He was completely dismissive of outright compliments, which clearly made him uncomfortable. He doesn’t smile.

“This is not a movie about sex,” he insists. “It’s a metaphor for life in Serbia. There is no sex in Serbia—only pornography.”

“A Serbian Film is about the lengths a man will go in order to put food on the table for his family,” he states flatly, and seemed to want to leave it at that. But the final question from the audience was actually the most compelling: When asked if there’s anything about the movie he wishes he could change, Spasojević’s response drops jaws:

“I wish I had made it harder. More extreme.”

This article, along with my experience with Spasojević, could very easily have ended here, but for a chance meeting in the hotel the next morning. As I made my way to the lobby, I found myself alone in the elevator with the elusive and stern filmmaker. It was the kind of chance encounter that comes along once in a lifetime—if that. Knowing I may never have another opportunity for a private, one-on-one exchange with the man, I decided to speak-up. Here’s what transpired:

[Elevator doors close.]

Josh Millican: “Good morning Srđan. I caught your screening last night.”

Srđan Spasojević: “Yes, I remember. You’re the journalist.”

JM: “That’s right. I’ve got to say, you looked pretty uncomfortable on stage. It seemed like you couldn’t get away fast enough!”

SS: “Well, you know, people always want to talk [about A Serbian Film], but I already said everything I wanted to say in the movie. So what else is there?”

JM: “Makes sense. I suppose.”

SS: “Also, this movie came out 5 years ago, so I want to think about my next movie.”

While I would have loved to get the scoop on whatever it is Spasojević has in the works, the elevator had arrived at ground level, and our conversation concluded.

fmngzbfbnn1snj1dcp4mRumors abound that Spasojević’s resistance to aggrandizing his achievement stems from threats of retaliation from the Serbian Government (which, rightly, considers the film’s title a scathing indictment). Still, I can understand how it might become frustrating for a filmmaker to answer the same questions month after month, year after year—especially when the metaphor is so incredibly blunt.

Allow me to explain:

When you live in Serbia, you’re fucked. You can get fucked up, or fuck someone else over, but either way, the entire situation is fucked. Even when you have the best of intensions, you’re fucked. Worse: Your kids are fucked. In Serbia, you’re fucked from birth, fucked for life, and fucked in death. Everything in Serbia is completely and utterly fucked.

But just as this article will hardly be considered the definitive exploration of A Serbian Film, it’s likely Spasojević may never crawl out from under the enormous infamy of his debut film; debates will rage and rage will reverberate for years or even decades—much to the chagrin of the Serbian Government.

This is how legends are born.

Have you seen A Serbian Film? Do you think such a notorious film will ever fade into obscurity? Sound off in the Comments section!

Follow me on Twitter @josh_millican for quality horror articles worthy of your attention.

 

 

 

4 Comments on this post.

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  • eric white
    14 October 2015 at 1:09 am - Reply

    it is brutal, it is bombastic, it is unflinchingly cruel, and it is poetry from an angry soul. he made a movie that satirized the serbian government’s requirements for making a government sanctioned movie that would get funds from the government. so, if the government won’t let you make what you wish, you tell the government keep your money and make them squirm. I hope no one sees this unless they see the uncut version. anything less, and the artist’s vision is not being honored.

  • Eric
    15 October 2015 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Go ahead and spin any pretentious interpretation you want. It’s still a film that isn’t made well or worth watching.

  • Karen
    17 October 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I had never heard of this film until that Friday night. And it came with very explicit warnings from our host. I agree, it was the sickest movie I’ve ever seen. I did attend the SHFF and was one to walk out. When it came to the “baby fucking” scene, I couldn’t stomach it any longer. Having stated this, I also do believe that this was the perfect scene to make an impact that wanted to be made.
    It all is horrific, spiraling into darkness detail, the story line makes sense. Maybe I need to see the “cut” version if this were the only scene cut. I could handle this scene in a book, but seeing it and hearing it were just too much for this horror fan.
    I also don’t see this movie as a horror movie, but more of a social commentary on the rape culture, making women less than human, human trafficking and what methods could be used to have a person end up becoming a pedophile.
    I don’t see how this satirized anything. It was absolutely horrific and not in a good way. I was compelled to watch because I didn’t thing there was anything I couldn’t watch, but this one killed it for me.
    If there is a Hell, it’s on earth, and while watching this film I was in it for the moment.
    I can’t imagine what the director’s next vision for a movie is, but I am not a fan.

  • Cine gore, torture porn y shock sites: ¿Por qué nos gana el morbo? – Libertimento
    21 August 2016 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    […] Durante el 9o Festival de Cine de Horror de Sacramento, el director de A Serbian Film dijo que solo se arrepiente de una cosa: no haberla hecho más extrema. Fuente: The Blood-Shed […]

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