A Serbian Film is about Milos, a retired porn star who's lured back into the industry out of desperation to support his wife and son. What begins as a standard day on the job turns into a twisted version of the industry Milos once knew when children are thrown into the equation. But that's not even the worst of it. All you've got to do is head over to the film's Wikipedia page to get a spoiler-packed taste of the British Board of Film Classification's issue with the production.
However, the director claims a scene involving "newborn porn," in which a newborn baby is raped, is entirely defensible. "This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government," he explained. "It's about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotise you to do things you don't want to do. You have to feel the violence to know what it's about." That defense apparently doesn't quite do it for the BBFC because the council is demanding 49 individual cuts are made to the film, which will result in the loss of four minutes of footage. A council rep said, "The board recognises that the images are intended to shock, but the sexual and sexualised violence goes beyond what is acceptable under current BBFC guidelines [for an 18-certificate]."
Of course I'm not really in a place to judge having not seen the film, but based on that Wikipedia description, it seems quite clear that Spasojevic is overstepping the boundaries. We don't live in an eye-for-an-eye world, or at least most of us don't. I don't know the details of the troubles with the Serbian government, but it doesn't seem sensible to act out by torturing a theater audience with a visual representation of their molestation. We indulge in torture porn and gruesome horror movies all the time, but A Serbian Film sounds as though it's got an entirely different intention. Unlike the films that do get screening approval, A Serbian Film isn't here to shock and entertain, merely to shock.
On the other hand the film did screen at South-by-Southwest earlier this year and our own Scott Weinberg caught it himself. He describes it as, "So shocking, so outrageous, and so legitimately disturbing that it boggles the mind" and goes on to say, "A Serbian Film is one of the most disgusting, unpleasant, and ANGRY films I've ever seen." However, he explains, "A Serbian Film could only come from a group of people who've lived through some stunningly painful experiences, and are now dead-set on throwing their collective fury on to a movie screen." This is where we get into new territory. If the filmmakers were subjected to such treatment, shouldn't they have a right to express their feelings? Considering Weinberg adds, "It's one of the most legitimately fascinating films I've ever seen. I admire and detest it at the same time," it starts to sound like something I'm actually quite curious to see. Then again, the thought of being scarred for life watching what Weinberg calls a film that's impossible to "un-watch," likely means I won't even have the guts if the time ever comes.