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Review: The Life & Death of a Porno Gang (Fantasia)

Jul. 21, 2010by: Chris Bumbray
100%

Plot: In the wake of the war in Kosovo, a young Serbian filmmaker named Marko, wanders the countryside of his homeland with a band of misfits, staging live, pornographic performances. Their performances catch the eye of an ex-war correspondent, turned pornographer, who suggests Marko and his band make snuff films- where they will kill, on camera, willing and suicidal participants.

Review: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG is without a doubt one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a long time. Part of the Subversive Serbia spotlight at this year’s Fantasia Festival (also featuring the already infamous A SERBIAN FILM), THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG is a movie that many will see as an appalling piece of exploitation, but I beg to differ.

Sure, the film’s appalling as hell- with it featuring shockingly realistic gore effects, and even full on (simulated) bestiality in some scenes, I don’t think it should be considered exploitation. Unlike a piece of pure exploitation, PORNO GANG has a soul, and a basis in reality, which only makes it all the more horrifying. In the late nineties, in the wake of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia was obviously a deeply fucked up place to be. While I have no idea whether or not it became a Mecca of Snuff films, and this movie makes it out to be, that idea wouldn’t shock me.

Interesting, the victims in the snuff films featured here are actually willing participants. In one particularly distressing scene, a sniper just out of Kosovo, and dying from AIDS, has the group listen to his confession of the various atrocities he committed during the war before he has them crack open his skull on camera so that he can leave money to his wife and children. In another scene, an elderly farmer volunteers to be killed in a live performance for a group of visiting businessmen, so that his granddaughter, who’s been severely burned by the radioactive weapons used during the war, will be taken care of. Obviously, this is very unsettling stuff, which I think makes this film transcend mere exploitation. Sure- there’s a disturbing mixture of sex and violence in this film, but it’s never meant to be titillating.

Even by Serbian standards, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG is low budget- with it being shot on the go; with grainy 16MM hand held cameras. However, despite the lack of budget, I wouldn’t say this is an unpolished film by any means. The performances, from a group of actors supposedly unknown even in their native Serbia, are uniformly excellent- Mihajlo Jovanovic as the protagonist, Marko- being a standout. He starts the films as a somewhat callous, if ambitious pornographer, who fancies himself as the one true artist working in pornography. As the film goes on, he transforms completely. Once he starts dabbling in the dirty business of snuff, Marko begins to enjoy his new outlaw status, until finally realizing the extent of his crimes during the film’s climax- where he finally goes over the edge, but also manages to regain a bit of humanity.

However, the most impressive aspect of the film has to be the incredibly realistic gore effects. There’s a scene where Marko is forced to watch a video of a Serbian being killed by a group of KLA soldiers, where they cut off his head, and use it for soccer, that had many scrambling for the exit. It looked real, and some were convinced it was an actual snuff film, although the director was quick to point out that this was not the case.

I’d say that unless you’re completely desensitized to films, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG is a film that will shake you to your core, and one that you won’t be able to forget. It’s horrifying, and disgusting, but it’s also thought provoking, and perhaps even a necessary film. While I doubt I’ll have the stomach to sit through it again, it’s nonetheless quite an achievement for director Mladen Djourdjevic. See it if you dare.

Grade: 8/10

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+1
1:59AM on 06/06/2012
That's how we Serbians are, full of sexual energy :D
That's how we Serbians are, full of sexual energy :D
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8:42AM on 07/21/2010
I've never heard of any halfway-popular (maybe popular isn't the right word) Serbian films before. And now, all of the sudden, we're getting two of the grittiest, sexually charged movies in recent memory. Sounds like a trend is starting to form here.
I've never heard of any halfway-popular (maybe popular isn't the right word) Serbian films before. And now, all of the sudden, we're getting two of the grittiest, sexually charged movies in recent memory. Sounds like a trend is starting to form here.
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