Tag Archives: Controversial

Cinema-Maniac: A Serbian Film (2011) Review

Pre-viewing Conversation

Izanagi: So the reason you’re seeing this movie is because of bragging rights correct?

Caesar Mendez: No I’m not. I just want to get it out of my system.

Izanagi: Why? You already proved your endurance seeing Salo and Cannibal Holocaust arguably considered to be the most disturbing movies ever made.

Caesar Mendez: I know, but “A Serbian Film” is, well, a Serbian film.

Izanagi: Are you sure you don’t want me to invite Matoi? At least when she’s around you put effort into your jokes.

Caesar Mendez: Oh please no. Last time I made her see a movie she hated, well lets just say it got very elaborate.

Izanagi: Oh yeah. Who knew you could do so much with a pair scissors when it came to….

Caesar Mendez: Don’t complete that sentence. Remember my policy.

Izanagi: Really? You know it’s not that bad. You don’t have to censor it. And since you’re not paying any attention to me. Just start the film.

So if a film has a stigma for “disturbing content” I might see it since I’m naturally curious on what my “breaking point” will be. You know, the film that makes me just want to stop seeing it because of how vile the content is. It is a search that while not ideal for the common film fan it is for this maniac. As stated in the past, I’m open to all forms of cinema rather than limiting choices on personal preferences. I absolutely detest rape, but I’ve seen films exploring the physiological consequences of rape throughout one’s life (the masterpiece Mysterious Skin) and seen films that uses it as a cheap tool to gain sympathy (I Spit On Your Grave). In terms of content there’s only two films (as of the date this review posting) that I can think of that can top “A Serbian Film”; the documentary “Earthlings” and semi-found footage film “Cannibal Holocaust”. Specifically because everything in “Earthlings” is actual footage of animal slaughter is shown in detail and parts of “Cannibal Holocaust” are real that blurs the line for the uninformed between what’s real and just fiction. As a work of fiction “A Serbian Film” should check itself into a mental ward. The closest fictional film that comes close to matching it psyche is “Nekromantik” which if you know what’s good for you. DON’T look up the ending to “Nekromantik”.

A Serbian Film is about an aging porn star who agrees to participate in an “art film” in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film. The story of the film is handle sloppily disregarding common sense. So try to picture a shady man you never met before offering you lots of money to do a specific job without giving you any details. At first the protagonist makes the rational hesitation on taking up the offer to participate in this specific job. Despite the protagonist gut feeling that there’s something wrong about the job he’s put in a position where his irrational acceptance makes sense. It’s a motivation that’s simple to grasp and garner some sympathy towards some of the film characters. Now picture you accepting the job and notice on your first day what you experience further strengthen your hesitation to work for this shady man. Our protagonist is given a reasonable motivation for taking the job, but does not apply equally to his dedication to maintain the shady job knowing the possible hint of danger. His motivation to remain isn’t developed to the point it’s able to sell the viewer with the protagonist decision. Plus there’s these things called phones which the film characters sometime used to communicate to each other except when it crucial in order to move the story.

Logically the protagonist should have been more cautious, but at the same time is sympathetic. He’s given a simplistic backstory of being a struggling father who’s retire from a perceived less than glamorous profession. It’s simple and straight to the point. However, the “bonding” moments between the protagonist and his son are things no words can do justice too. How one exactly goes about casually discussing how to “play with one self” is beyond me, especially if the kid is around ten years of age. These scenes give off a different vibe than what was meant to get across, but does display the protagonist attempting to be a good father even if the topic of discussion is inappropriate. Another good aspect about the film is the physiological breakdown of the film protagonist. Progressively the protagonist is broken down and his faith in humanity is utterly broken when it reaches the climax. Naturally seeing every step of his breakdown and what exactly triggers it to the point where his reaction is difficult to argue against. Especially when witnessing what the poor man goes through in the climax.

Where the story falls apart is also during its climax. During the course of the film it comes across as if the film would touch upon the film medium. As if to make a point on how far should the visionary and the participants take the artform before it’s consider to be too much for any rational thinking person to dissect. Of course I’m kidding since characters dialogue is often nationalize basically saying stuff like “make artistic porn to bring back our nation’s pride” or anything basically involving sex. In context character talking like this is rather goofy not adding to anything in the long run. How exactly the correlation between “Newborn Porn” ties into government injustices is flimsy at best. If it does connect to political commentary than the message is government likes to [you know the word] with people. In some cases that’s a true statement of poor government, but the context of the story and the devices implemented doesn’t in any form represents any ideals of politics. Let alone provide any elements where the correlation is feasible even metaphorically.

Now on to the main course of discussing aspects of it content and this is coming from a person who witness necrophilia, castrations, animal cruelty, and prolonged rape in some films he’s seen. A Serbian Film does not live up to its stigma of having vile content that makes you want to stop viewing it. For example, in the film there’s a scene involving two characters seeing footage of “Newborn Porn”. Sounds disgusting regardless how questionable the content in films you’ve seen have been, but instead of showing the actual “Newborn Porn” we see the back of a specific performer and primarily shown reaction shots of the characters viewing the footage. The way it’s presented is not vile nor difficult in taking in the scene as a plot device thanks to good editing conveying the purpose. However, given the title of the footage being “Newborn Porn” there’s no arguing the director went about it the best way in not showing it directly towards the audience since it occurs off screen. Rather than simply include this scene for shock value (ok, from my perspective at least) it gets across there is fine line between what should be film and what can be film. Within the context it’s the film inciting incident which is basically a fancy way for writers of saying it’s an event that is struck upon the protagonist(s) where their life changes from the norm to adapt to the story’s plot. The way the scene is film gets across the idea of it rather than explicitly show it. Although I’m not sure if the sadist filmmakers that came up with the scene or the actual viewers that fill in the blank in their minds when viewing said scene that has a more troubling mindset than the person who’s defending it.

Where a majority of the film “vile content” comes from is in the film final thirty minutes that contain a number of rape scenes and spontaneous murder. Out of the whole film there is one scene that might trigger a reaction of sickness and one in the climax that will trigger a reaction questioning your decision to view the film entirely. Of course due to personal regulations I won’t discuss the specifics despite the previous paragraph touching on the most controversial (off screen) scene in the film. The reason being we’re shown in these scenes the whole performance of vile action rather than a fraction of vile action being performed. However, despite what occurs in the climax it will bring new meaning to the term “hard-on”. It’s very questionable why the director would include a moment where’s the protagonist cocka doodle doo can pierce through flesh and a kill a man in a scene that involves rape. Not lying, I laughed when I witness this moment in the scene, and at the same time am very jealous of the power of it. Lets just move on after that questionable series of sentences.

The production values for the film are very good. Director Srdjan Spasojevic maintains a bleak tone throughout the film. By creating such an atmosphere even during the film first hour you never feel like you’re adjusting to comfortably seeing it. It’s lighting is one of those reasons that while in most scenes everything is visble there’s are always a hint of shadiness. Where the dynamic of a scene is made very clear and more effective for it. The score for the film is foreboding slowly building to a more enraging sound when it becomes more transgressive. Acting is also another bright spot especially from it star Srdjan Todorovic. He’s fully committed in his performance never once being unconvincing, even when the film goes to the extreme. Becoming enveloped in a wide arrange of emotions when he’s angry it’s believable and he’s a broken man he really come across as someone loss hope in humanity. His costar Sergei Trifunovic is also excellent. Even when he’s given simple talking scene his mannerism makes anything no matter how positive sounding very shady. Trifunovic appearance also adds to his role in particular his sinister smile. Supporting cast are also good, though most of their roles aren’t as developed as Todorovic. Slobodan Bestic for example mostly stays in the mindset of secretly desiring his brother wife and it isn’t until the climax where he gets a change in character. Jelena Gavrilovic is is allowed more ranged and comes across as the most sane in the cast which is saying something. Each of the actor are believable in their role and are committed to it not letting the context bother them.

A Serbian Film doesn’t live up to the stigma of “disturbing cinema” the same way “Cannibal Holocaust” does, but as a whole contains great production values, good acting, and an okay story with sympathetic characters. Of course with that said I will acknowledge that not all viewers have viewed the same films I have so from that perspective I understand because exposure to such material varies. However, there’s no denying it is one well made film from a technical standpoint and well acted whose good qualities get overlook due to the reaction to its content.

7/10

Post viewing conversation

Izanagi: So it’s a good thing I didn’t invite Matoi to see this. Given her bad habit to lose large amount of blood she would have kicked your…

Caesar Mendez: Uh, I told you to not introduced any gimmicks when it comes to my reviews. If you keep doing this my readers are going to believe I plan to do something with these fictional characters gimmick even though I just simply want to express my position on certain films.

Izanagi: Wait? You’re willfully admitted there’s nothing meaningful to our usage in this review?

Caesar Mendez: Of course. If I pretended your usage in this review was to metaphor apartheid that would make me pretentious. Clearly pretending to be one thing to justify what I do even though the foundation provided does not support it.

Izanagi: You know could have said that in your review without including both dialogue. So in a way. Yeah, you sorta are pretentious.

Caesar Mendez: In this case, I’ll give you that one. So want me to call Ryuk and you know?

Izanagi: Nope. Not even he can help me unsee this movie. It’s actually his new all time favorite method when it comes to his job as full time Shinigami (Gods that invite humans toward death).

Caesar Mendez: Well then, I guess it could be worse.

Izanagi: It could be in. Three, two, one.

Matoi: WHAT’S THIS ABOUT YOU CALLING ME MEANINGLESS?

Caesar Mendez: IZANAGI!

Izanagi: Yep, she heard everything you said.

Ryuko Matoi: You thought “A Serbian Film” was rough? After I’m done you “A Serbian Film” will be a cakewalk in comparison.

Caesar Mendez: It was a cakewalk for me, than again I guessed the films I see and personal experience helped in my disconnection with my more human side. Well, that’s all folks. So what’s it gonna be this time Matoi?

Ryuko Matoi: For starter we’ll begin with something by Jorge Ameer than I’ll….

Caesar Mendez: No. Noooooooo. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Cinema-Maniac: Duck! The Carbine High Massacre (1998) Review

There’s no getting around the fact that this film uses “The Columbine High Massacre” as a backdrop to satirize the media sensitization of the incident. Firstly, a condensed version of the tragedy is in order. On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys’ plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. When the day was done, twelve students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead; plus 21 more were injured. This film fictionalize take on the “The Columbine High Massacre” is ridiculous, goofy, and at times cartoonish with a proud sense of black humor. Realism and respect for the victims is not the aimed of the film, but neither is intelligence with its black humor satire of news media sensationalism.

Duck! The Carbine Massacre is about a pair of victimized high-school students embarking on a blood-soaked rampage of furious violence…in the climax that is. A good ninety percent is repetitive re threads to reestablish that the characters are indeed horrible people. Every character in the film is an easy to identified stereotype. The dumb bullies, a Bible-thumping Puritan, the goths, the gearhead (who is shown constantly cleaning his car), the cheerleader and her jock boyfriend, a handicapped student, and a black character who hates white people. That’s not me being racist; the only black character in the film wears a shirt that says “I hate white people” and says stuff like “The internet is for white folks” very angrily. What the characters do is realistic like bullying anyone outside a clique, teachers that don’t prevent bullying, and ignorant parents that just don’t care or refuse to acknowledge anything negative. How these events are depicted are cartoonish. When protagonist Derwin goes to a basketball court alone he receives a bloody beating. One reason behind the beating is because a jock shoved a bleeding Derwin on the gearhead car and presumes on to beat him for getting it dirty. Even after the beating Derwin still gets bullied as he lay on the floor beaten as the rest of the students give him a good kick. It’s a forceful way to get across his hatred towards the other students. At the same time it undermines characterizing any of the characters. They are intentionally written to be hated which lessens the point it was meant to get across. It’s easy to figure out the message because of how narrow minded it characters talk and interact.

As a black comedy the film fails in many areas. Granted it did make me laugh a few time, though those laughs were from random moments. Like when the protagonists go to buy guns, the shady salesman sells them weapons game show host style. Also in the end the mocked media have a theory that it was possibly aliens that committed the act. As a whole there’s not much advantage taken by the writing staff to say anything clever. Since each character is a stereotype so is the limited mindset in the humorous situations. For example, the Christian Puritan pukes on someone when she hears hard rock music. The concept of it could have been funny, but because there’s nothing more to this character the joke failed. All the humor suffer from the one dimensional characters that once expose to prolong period of time overstay their welcome. Plus it’s pretty difficult laugh at a joke where the same gun dealers said earlier to our protagonists “Do you want to F*** a twelve old”. Or the one instance where a policemen shoots a goth student he presume is the shooter after the massacre scene. As for the massacre scene it gets across some solid points on the exclusivity of high school cliques with narrow minded pretext to make sure it does not strike a cord of any sort.

Both William Hellfire and Joey Smack are the directors, stars, writers, producers, and cinematographers of the film. It’s very evident too sporting a home video production look in all the ways you expect. Sound mixing is mixed in quality. In some scenes you can hear dialogue easily, but in others background noises makes it difficult to determine what the actors are saying. It could be the wind or awful rock music that repeat the word kill. Apparently hearing cartoon punches sound effect is more important than whatever the actors were talking about in a given scene. There’s also instances of the boom-mic being visible, though for a $5,000 production it’s not much of a shock. The same applies to the home-video look of it. Images are never crisp and clear and colors don’t appear properly. Everything looks brown even in broad daylight whenever outside or inside brightly lit interior. The acting is atrocious to say the least. All acting comes across as one big rejected rehearsal tape. Not a single line delivery is credible. Finally comes the massacre scene which looks poor due to the budget limitations, but on a technical level shows the crew knew how to handle particle effects. They might look fake (especially a pointless scene involving a giant rocket), the executions of the cheap looking effect is worthy of some merits.

Duck! The Carbine High Massacre is exploitative yes, but not offensive. Unless you consider bad acting and low productions values insulting than offensive it is. It’s a fictional take on a tragic incident taking a bold stance to show the film from the point of view from the shooters not so much the victims. However, that bold move is undermined by the fact that every character is a stereotype that are repetitive in scenes to scenes and narrow minded in it depiction of people. The ideas it has about bullying is realistic and so is being driven to violence by your environments, but gives such ideas a cartoonish depiction . It’s too far removed from decent filmmaking and too far of from reality to portray its theme to be anything other than footnote on exploitation filmmaking.

2/10
Extra:

Despite his last name being Hellfire, William is a nice guy. A somewhat ironic story post the film production was the arrest of William Hellfire and his friend Joey Smack. In their own words they claim to attack the media and how they cover the incident. According to Hellfire there was a news reporter that wanted to orchestrate an arrest on camera instead of interviewing them. When the FBI rejected the reporter request he went to the local police. For a whole month the local police were out looking for William Hellfire and his friend. They got arrested for bringing actual guns onto school ground and in the car a policemen to not worry because they’ll be famous. Famous? Maybe for underground filmmaking scene, but for the general mindset will probably be seen as an anomaly of good taste based on the title alone.

Cinema-Maniac: Nekromantik (1987) Review

Banned films generate an interest in me unlike any other kind of films. By nature it is easy to assume that these banned films have content that goes past the boundary good taste, but what about how it’s made and what it has to say. Not every story can be toned down to get its message across applying the same to what it shows. If done correctly such a film can be consider art regardless of the content, but “Nekromantik” says otherwise. Why have substance to tied together a series of ugly scenes to leave a impression with the message it wants to get across.

Nekromantik follows a street sweeper who cleans up grisly accidents bringing home a full corpse for him and his wife to enjoy sexually, but is dismayed to see that his wife prefers the corpse over him. That synopsis gives away a majority of what occurs in the film. No characterization, no motifs, no metaphors, banal dialogue, no subplots, and no plot bring any meaning. Fundamentally with these story techniques broken it’s inapprehensible to obtain a reason to care for it has to say. It doesn’t matter what absent is a cohesive narrative and characters, but how it chooses to get across it point that should be criticize. How it says it message is stringed together by scenes that have little to no correlation to the preceding events. Literally opening with a women pissing in the field after providing a warning label to not show the film to minors. She gets back into a car with her husband to only to crash on the road because they weren’t paying attention. Showing the death of these characters play no importance to the film neither in their living moments or their corpses is redundant without establishing its own key ingredients. Repeating this pattern in its short duration with seemingly random stock footage of a rabbit getting his throat slit, and then see the blood drain out onto the ground as it twitches and breathing his last breath. Later the protagonist flashback again to his rabbit being hung upside down, skinned, eyes are torn out of the remains of his head, and has the rabbit inside pulled out. At first this flashback has no semblance with what occurring in the scene. It isn’t until the ending that it’s vaguely (in the thinnest possible way) explained it triggered the protagonist desire of the dead. When it chooses to provide background on the protagonist whatever the plot point may be is meaningless when introduce. Since the protagonist is a walking, singular purpose plot device there’s no significance to be immediately found on his journey.

It has scenes where there is some meaning to be found. For example, the protagonist goes to a movie theater and he is disgusted by the violence on screen while the rest of the viewers are empathetic. The point this scene makes is clear that exposure to fictional violence desensitizes real violence. I don’t have to agree with the film message, but if it claims responsibility to attempt to convince it should at least try to do so. Something it fails since the basic storytelling techniques are broken. Despite clocking around seventy-five minutes the film manages to make a scene where a couple has sex with a corpse boring. That’s right a film that makes corpse sex boring. Without substance to support itself it damages its own message delivery. Throughout the film it gives the viewer little to go on and even less in context. All you could do is guess which leaves you filling in the holes of lazy writing. Like the film warning said it shouldn’t be shown to minor and I agree because if it can’t execute what it’s trying to convey then why should anyone see it including minors with morbid curiosity.

Director Jorg Buttergereit spares all expenses when it came to filming. Looking very poorly shot on a bad super 8 camera with the grainy video quality. Acting is poor with actors given very little dialogue to be said. Under poor direction the conversations despite there being very little sound robotic and unnatural. Without dialogue the actors to an extent have body movement convey little. Since the characters receive non substantial development the actors aren’t sure are how to react in a given situation. Despite Bernd Daktari Lorenz portraying a character who collects human bodies parts (gore is substituted by animal organs) and a necrophiliac he shows expression of disgust when bathing in the blood of a dead cat (which he killed in a earlier scene). Editing is terrible drowning out the instances the actors do speak. Sound drop and rises in quality at seemingly random or have long stretches where music of notable production problems. The music is minimal and the track it uses is the best thing about the film. John Boy Walton’s “Menage A Trios” juxtapose the happy, upbeat music with Rob’s violent perversions. This score is the closest the film comes to disgust that is earned by effort and not imagery. Either that or the score expresses director Jorg Buttergereit excitement in seeing a man stabbing himself.

Nekromantik for all it intentions to shock has a point to get across, but getting to it will have you fight a battle against boredom. Non existent characters, no cohesive story, and poor production values leaves very little to gain. Where it fails the most how it executes its story to a get a point across without substance to what it does. Its protagonist might prefer the dead to the living, but filmgoers will prefer better films that touch on the taboo subject matter without sacrificing competent filmmaking.

2/10