In the past week something pretty significant has popped up on my radar.
Firstly, I was directed to this article.
and I read it and become concerned, as the days went by, I read a few other articles, like this one and this one. I also gathered information from Eli Roth’s ever reliable twitter. What this all has to do with is the fact that Angel Sala, the director of the Sitges Film Festival is being charged with child pornography as a result of including Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film among the films being screened.
Now, if you choose to read these articles, I encourage you to tread carefully, if you choose to watch this movie – I advise further careful treading – it is not a pretty picture.
In fact, it’s a horrible, monstrous, grotesque film – full of sights that cannot be unseen, and thoughts that will turn your stomach. It is also one of the films I’ve chosen for my thesis. I’ve seen the film, and will have to watch parts of it many times over, I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it. But then I don’t always enjoy the moments of agony I watch closely.
I’ll be maybe one of the few people to think this, let alone admit it, but I really enjoyed A Serbian Film. I’m not saying I approve of the content, but I’ve learned that a lot of films are no fun at all, and that is where their greatness lies. I admire filmmakers who will not flinch under the watchful gaze of morality and include in their films whatever they want. I admire films that actually are willing and brave enough to go to whatever terrible lengths they can. I don’t believe in censorship, I understand why this film hasn’t gotten US distribution and why when it does it will be edited to death.
I don’t think this is right. I really don’t think it’s right that an important and admirable member of the film community is being persecuted for showing the film.
Film doesn’t need to be beautiful, it doesn’t need to be acceptable, it doesn’t need to be enjoyable. Some cinema hurts, some of it is horrible and agonizing. Some of it is pure torture to watch, watching some of it isn’t fun, it isn’t cool, it’s just endurance.
And this point, I know all about it.
However, this film deserves to be released, the filmmakers deserve credit, it deserves it’s place among a wide array of extreme media. A Serbian Film does not look like your everyday horror movie, it goes to lengths I never thought I would see on film. It is painful and searing and excessive. Not everyone wants to see this, a lot of people will protect themselves from media like this, protect their children – but cinema is about vision and art – and there should be no boundaries as to what can be put on screen, and certainly no punishment for people who choose to screen or watch this media.
What this has done is allowed me to understand why I’m writing my thesis. I’ve sat through a lot of horror movies, I’ve watched difficult, gross, gory, painful scenes. I chose the most horrible, disgusting, abject movies I had ever seen. Some of them I love, some of them are so hard to watch – but I have chosen them for study, I am looking at them more closely than I think anyone other than their makers have. I wonder everyday why I chose to do this, and the reason is now clear.
I don’t believe in censorship, I don’t believe in hiding scary, troubling, complicated movies. I think there’s merit and power in A Serbian Film, as well as in my other selections. I think there is a beauty to these films, if not in their content, in their construction, in their aesthetics – it is in their ability to exist, despite censorship and judgement.