Friday, March 04, 2011

Seeking the Death of Hope

In April last year, I wrote about "Serbian Film" - a feature filled with such horrific violence that it merited the classification of "snuff." In that essay, I argued that the first-time director and producer Srdjan Spasojevic had made an intrinsically Serb-hating movie.

Now, I haven't actually seen the film myself; judging by the descriptions from critics, I don't particularly want to. One reader, however, offered a different reading on the film and wished to share it. Given that his comments ran a bit long, and I generally don't approve comments on posts that old, I've agreed to post them here, in their entirety (I've made only the minimal grammatical adjustments) So, let's follow our intrepid yet nameless reviewer into the dark underworld of "Serbian Film":

How are we sure what Spasojevic's message really is? See my analysis below. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Let's start with the contract at the beginning of the film:
Milos says "But I don't know what I am signing."
Vukmir says "You are not supposed to know. If you know you will not be so good."

The contract represents the deal made with the western powers, at that time 10 years ago, in exchange for promises of a better life, a better standard of living.

When Vukmir says "You are not supposed to know. If you know you will not be so good," the meaning is, "If you knew, you would not be obedient to your western masters."

Here Vukmir represents the western powers, the EU, the USA, the architects, the "Directors" of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia with the goal of economic exploitation of the region. This is not a viewpoint exclusive to Spasojevic .See for example the documentary "Weight of Chains." Milos represents the Serbian government.

Vukmir : "There is a serious script. We know it, you don't." i.e. the west's actions are not just an accident but a carefully planned script.

Vukmir shakes hands with Milos and says, "The right hand is the sex center in any man. It's a direct line between your brain and c***." [redaction in the original]
If you know the difference between Rightist and Leftist politics , you will see that this is a sarcastic jab against the Right.

"Only filmed here, but for the foreign market" is referencing that the Serbs are economic slaves of the western powers. For example, Serbian industry and assets are being sold off to foreign investors and corporations, in essence making Serbs employees of foreign corporations.

Vukmir says "You could always make your d*** stand up like a c*** at dawn" . This is making fun of all the sucking up to the west that the Serbian government is doing.

Laylah says to Milos, "The problem with that pension is that it's not lifelong. How much do you have stashed?" This is referring to mundane issues about low pensions and how the privileged have good pensions.

The white rabbit : this is just saying that the promises made to the Serbian government by the west is a fantasy, a fake. When the guy puts the rabbit to his crotch , the director is telling you what he thinks of those promises.

The thing about how Milos looks Swedish: This is trying to say that the Serbian government is not one of us, they are foreigners, in cahoots with foreign governments.

Vukmir says: "Do you know what is proof that there is art in pornography? You , Milos. Your sense of handling a woman, your rhythm of exhausting her, your talent to humiliate her, and then, when she is reduced to dog-s*** , to win her back."

More biting sarcasm. This is saying you exhausted NATO, humiliated NATO (shot down [F-117] stealth, minimal damage to Serbian equipment etc.) but later you just let her back in.

Milos says "I dunno, I'm a little tired of cameras and f******." This one is obviously about the civil wars. Cameras are referring to the world news cameras.

Vukmir : "You're also tired of h****** scum any time your family needs dough. Kissing some wretched c**** with the same lips you kiss your kid."

This one is about the Serbian government asking for monetary assistance from the foreign governments (the scum). What kind of h****** ? Western politician says to [the] Serbian politician, "Here is some money under the table. Now you arrange to sell us this company for cheap." You should be able to see now that pornography here is a metaphor for the relationship between the Serbian government and the western governments.

Milos to his wife: "No, he's some kind of artist with a grand plan ... seems like he desperately needs me since he's willing to offer such cash." Sarcasm about how the western governments are waving the carrot in front of the Serbian government .

Marko: "It's not a d*** , it's a police stick ... why isn't he ... limp , like all the normal people." Spasojevic considers the current government a fascist police state.

Vukmir: "Transmitted live to the world who has lost all that and now is paying to watch that from the comfort of an armchair ... Victim sells." Referring to world media manipulation of the wars.

Vukmir's rants. "This whole country is a bunch of kids discarded by their parents." The people have been abandoned by their government (hence the orphanage setting); the government is busy looking after their own privileges and wheeling and dealings. One frequent complaint you will hear in Serbia is that there is no law.

Let's agree, for the sake of argument, that this analysis is correct. That Spasojevic's snuff script really does work on the level our reviewer claims. First of all, if this is actually the case, then the meaning is buried so deep that very few will ever manage to get past the violence and depravity to see it. If he wanted to make an allegory, he could have done it much more openly. Serbia today may be ruled by a corrupt, quisling regime, but no one has banned allegories yet. For that matter, why not just adapt Kocic's "Trial of a Badger", since that would have been much cheaper and easier?

Secondly, the nihilistic framework in which Spasojevic operates is all too similar to most other films made in Serbia, often with state money. I can understand filmmakers who want a posh Hollywood life being frustrated by Serbia's current predicament. All too often, their bitterness comes out as wallowing in nihilism, caricatured violence and rants at the general populace for failing to be good enough to appreciate their greatness.

It doesn't take a genius to understand that such behavior may be therapeutic for the person in question at the moment, but is ultimately self-destructive for him, and everyone around him, in the longer term. One of the biggest blunders of current Serbian filmmakers, in my admittedly non-expert opinion, is the belief that their audience is worthless. Either they believe, like the yellowcrats and their NGO spear-carriers, that the people are primitive, stupid, uncouth and in need of "getting culture," or they think the populace is too passive, and needs to be exposed to an extreme version of misery in order to be goaded into action.

What they don't seem to understand is that the people have seen misery aplenty. Having lived through war, deprivation, demonization, depredation and despair, they are not easy to shock. Nor is causing shock the right approach, under the circumstances. What they crave, what they need to awaken the spirit of resistance that everyone has been trying to snuff out for years - what they thirst for, more than a dying man in the deep desert thirsts for water - is hope. They aren't looking for a superhero to save the day, or God's Hand of Justice to descend from the Heavens to smite the sinners; but they would like to see someone not reduced to evil by the cruelties of life, just once. Because seeing life grind people to dust got really old years ago. Somehow, though, the filmmakers never got that memo. Perhaps because there are few movie theaters left in Serbia, and there is no real connection between the filmmakers and their audience anymore?

Now, our movie-reviewing friend here has made a compelling argument that Spasojevic may have tried to represent the current situation through an extreme metaphor. If we accept this, though, if we say that that his snuff film is actually meant as a representation of Serbia's destruction at the hands of the Empire, there is one colossal problem with it: in the end, the Empire wins.

To say that "Serbian Film" doesn't promote hope is an understatement comparable only with the degree of hyperbole with which it allegedly represents Serbia's current situation. That film crushes hope, seeks to destroy any last shred of it, and leave nothing in its wake but the darkest despair. It doesn't seek to stir the viewer to resistance against the world it portrays, but to persuade the said viewer that any and all resistance is futile, to the point where even death does not bring relief. If "Serbian Film" is a metaphor, then it is not merely a Serb-hating movie, it is a movie that just hates all humanity in general.

So, really, it would be much better for Spasojevic if his film didn't work the way our reviewer described. That way, it could be considered merely a piece of nihilistic lartpourlartisme, a perverted dark fantasy that tries to ride the rear fender of the Serbophobic bandwagon and make its creator a buck or two. All that would be forgivable.

Trying to kill hope in a people that desperately need it, isn't.


Suvorov said...

That film is as Serbian as George Soros.

Anonymous said...

Totally understand your point of view . Still I am disappointed that you are not going to look into it further . I think the movie deserves a thorough analysis even if to just criticize Spasojevic . I hate horror movies myself , i only watched it to figure out what's up and I have to admit that I admire the subversiveness of it and the serbian humor that pervades the whole movie . In that sense it is very typically serbian ( and I am one ) .

Anyway , I gave it my best shot and I respect your viewpoint .

CubuCoko said...

Well, in all fairness, I might look into it further, at some point. It would be hypocrisy of me to dismiss something out of hand, as I've been preaching exactly the opposite for years. And I do thank you for your contribution, without which I probably would not have stopped to think and write about the whole phenomenon of hope-snuffing nihilism in modern Serbian cinema.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should clarify also that I am not here to defend the movie , my goal is to just find out exactly what the messages behind the movie are . I was like you when I first heard about this movie , "oh no not more anti-serb propaganda" . But somehow i ended up admiring it because it makes me think so much and you can see the artistic intent in it , every scene is like a painting with a meaning behind it . I have read a lot of stuff on the internet and from what I can tell they are all just a bunch of horror geeks that don't have a clue . Also one question you might ask when you watch this is , is this movie a type of stealth terrorist attack ? I think it is no coincidence that croatian newspaper asked Spasojevic if this is revenge for the nato bombing .

Сербство said...

I believe the reviewer gave the film more meaning and purpose than its creators did.

"After the movie ended, an awkward silence filled the room. Screenwriter Srdjan Spasojevic fielded questions during a Q&A, framing the movie as an angry reaction to the country’s rampant censorship laws. “This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government,” he said. “We’re giving this back to you.” He pointed out that the movie, which has yet to play in its native country, reflects a hidden anti-government sentiment. “In the past 10 to 15 years, the only films made in Serbia have no connection to Serbian reality,” he said.

After the screening, some audience members wondered if Spasojevic’s dour tone was actually a ruse — that the filmmakers didn’t take the material all that seriously and the movie was simply intended as exploitation for its own sake. But Spasojevic argued that the radically unsettling rape-murder motif had a pointed intent. “It’s about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotize you to do things you don’t want to do,” said Spasojevic. “You have to feel the violence to know what it’s about.”"

Sounds like a hurried excuse for why they made this sick film to me. I also think they want to deliver an anti-Serbian message to foreign moviegoers, the majority of whom have probably never heard of Serbia before. After seeing the film, depravity will be the first thing they associate with the word "Serb". It will be with the same goal and effect western films have that portray Serbs as genocidal maniacs and terrorists. For others, it will serve as a confirmation for “why we bombed them”. What other reason would they have named it a "SERBIAN FILM" with the country's shape on the cover?

I wanted to remove any doubt about this movie's intentions. The reviewer's interpretation is clearly not what the filmmakers had in mind.

This is neither the first nor the last anti-Serbian film made by or contributed by Serbs. Srdjan Karanovic’s “Besa” came out in 2009 in light of the Kosovo organ-trafficking scandal. Too much happens for there to be coincidences. I cannot understand what drives these Serbs to present their own people as violent and primitive but non-Serbs as victims and noble.

You might also want to take a look at something new Muamer Zukorlic has cooked up.

Asteri said...

I was kind of pressured into watching it by a friend on the basis of "you like Serbian stuff", and though I would never watch it again, I personally thought it did have more of a intelligent plot and infinitely more artistic merit that any of those disgusting American and Japanese semi-snuff films like Hostel and Saw (which I’ve not seen) and think say more about those countries than Srpski Film says about modern Serbia. It reminded me of Michael Haneke’s film Funny Games, (but with violence) a deliberately unpleasant film, made to ask the audience why they want to watch killing and psychological abuse. With Hostel and Saw it’s all about the director and audience getting sick pleasure out of watching young people being tortured, but here there was an actual plot and I liked the desperate despair of the ending, It should be discomforting for a western audience in more ways than one.

CubuCoko said...

You liked the "desperate despair"?

Anonymous said...

"The reviewer's interpretation is clearly not what the filmmakers had in mind."

Man , first of all you have not provided a single alternative interpretation .

You have only given two quotes from Spasojevic , neither of which is inconsistent with my interpretation of the dialogue . Read it again .
“It’s about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotize you to do things you don’t want to do,” and
“This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government,”
What is inconsistent in what I wrote ?!

Besides , do you really think the makers are going to announce to their western distributors that the movie is a protest against western governments and their quislings ?

CubuCoko said...

Let's not get personal here, or I'm reaching for the banhammer.

That said, dear reviewer, I do think your argument is pretty thin here. Spasojevic clearly refers to the Serbian government, not the Empire, as the allegorical evil. Let's not go into double-secret, triple-blind conspiracies to try and explain how Spasojevic's film is something it quite obviously is not.

Asteri said...

"You liked the "desperate despair"?"

That wasn't very well put was it? I can't say that I liked the film but I thought it was brilliantly chilling, harrowing, repulsive and tragic but in a poignantly good way. I bit like the film Salo that was banned for decades, its everything Srpski Film is yet even more horrendous.

Anonymous said...

I think there is something to this .
In the movie , there are Iluminati references . There is a Masonic floor which you can
see in the trailers and a girl dressed as 'Alice in Wonderland' which is Masonic
symbolism .

If your read the Director's statement , it says
We didn’t want to make a hermetic picture that would deal exclusively with our local tragedies, but to tell a story with global overtones, because Serbia is merely a reflection of the ways of today’s New World in general, as it tries to imitate it and fails miserably. Contrary to the peerless politically correct facade of the New World, it’s still a soulless devouring machine for killing every small freedom – of art and free speech – we have left, destroying everything different in its path.

Notice the term New World which is a veiled reference to New World Order .

CubuCoko said...

Maybe so, but for an allegory or a metaphor to work, it has to actually be recognizable - not obscure to the point of conspiracy theories. Plus, see my comment on the hopelessness in the end. If one really wants to stick it to the NWO, why have the message be "resistance is futile, even death is no escape"? That's worse than nihilism.