by Allan Fish
(Serbia 2010 104m) DVD2 (from October 2010)
Aka. Srpski film
A kind of cartoon for grown-ups
p Srdjan Spasojevic d Srdjan Spasojevic w Aleksandar Radivojevic, Srdjan Spasojevic ph Nemanja Jovanov ed Darko Simic m Sky Wikluh art Nemanja Petrovic cos Jasmina Sanader
Srdjan Todorovic (Milos), Sergej Trifunovic (Vukmir), Jelena Gavrilovic (Marija), Katarina Zutic (Lejla), Slobodan Bestic (Marko), Ana Sakic (Jecina Majka), Lena Bogdanovic (Doctor), Miodrag Krcmarik (Rasa), Lidija Pletl (Jecina Baka),
Imagine yourselves in the arms of Morpheus, drifting as if unconsciously like Jean Marais in Orphée, guided by one’s own Heurtebise, like Virgil guiding Danté through the seven circles of hell. This is not just any hell, however, but cine-hell. We pass the forbidding antechamber labelled with a garish picture of a toilet. Through that door we pass into the realms of cine-excretion, films so unpardonably puerile and amateurish, the dross of the mainstream, that to watch them in perpuity would be a special form of hell. My guide would seem to have something less flimsy in store for me. We walk on, through the concentric circles of this inferno, past a room devoted to the depiction of it in film, past the doors to which lead the extremities of the cinematic art, from Irreversible to Baise Moi!, from The Image to Inside, and finally wound up at a truly forbidding entrance. To the side of the door, a sign, in some form of Slav language, with what looked to be a picture showing some form of orphanage or care home. Above the door, the forbidding words, in Latin, well known to many, Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate.
Spasojevic’s apocalyptic vision details a retired male porn-star who has financial worries and sees a way out in the form of an artistic porn film offered to him by a shady businessman called Vukmir, but who refuses to tell him what it’s about and what will happen over the course of a shoot. We’re instantly alarmed, images of snuff movies circulating in our heads, visions of pubescent girls put before the protagonist. This could be a hairy road, we think. Suffice it to say that nothing can prepare you for what follows, but rather it needed someone to come out from behind the curtains to give a pre-credit warning, like Edward Van Sloan at the beginning of Frankenstein all those years ago. I remember his words, “…it may shock you…it may terrify you.”
When I first saw the film I entered it in my Final Apologies section and ended it with the words “nothing could persuade me to watch it again.” And then a week or two later I remember that was just how I felt after the first viewing of Irreversible, Baise Moi! and various other extreme tests of a cineaste’s stomach and morality. If those films now seem like masterworks of sorts was it not my duty to give it another go? More words from Danté rushed to subconscious recollection, in particular one very apt for the film in question; “the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” To wave the film away was to dismiss it, and to dismiss it is, in its own way, an act of apathetic cowardice. I had to watch it again, or else send myself four white feathers in the post; a pox on your desertion.
Again, sequences sickened, disturbed, outraged, a plot centring round a man trying to piece together lost days, a total recall from beyond your worst nightmares. The final gruesome bloodbath encourages delight at certain sickos getting what is coming to them, and yet even that hell is blown asunder by the final revelation which I won’t give away, but which leaves you feeling quite literally raped and left for dead. Some would argue watching such a film makes valid the point about what some individuals watch for entertainment, and yet when such outrages happen in war – to the self-same women and children – we turn a blind eye, it’s not our business. Not merely an attack on the senses but a “J’Accuse” directed at the modern world, at one extreme level it could be seen as a sick satire, but either way it has a feral, intestine-churning power that so few films can hope to achieve. Impossible to recommend to anyone, but even harder to forget, burnt into the retina with a branding iron like a new Holocaust. Et in infernus ego.