Serbian learners, are you film lovers? Do you feel that it’s about time to watch some movies and boost your vocabulary? I have listed my ten favourite Serbian films to watch. I hope that some of them will attract your attention and help you better understand the Serbian language.
Serbian cinematography started with the first film shown in Belgrade on June 6, 1896. The very first shots were taken by Andre Carr, representative of the Lumiere Brothers, in March, 1897. In Vojvodina, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, cinematography started to develop in my hometown of Sombor where Ernest Bošnjak opened the first cinema in 1906.
In the year 1911, the first movie was made: Život i dela besmrtnog vožda Karađorđa. After the Second World War, Serbian movie makers progressed more and more. Today, we have many very famous directors and actors. Some of the directors that you have probably heard of are Čiča Ilija Stanojević, Emir Kusturica, Zdravko Šotra, Goran Paskaljević, and Srđan Dragojević.
I believe that we can all agree that watching films is one of the most efficient ways to improve your vocabulary when learning a language. Serbian cinematography is very approachable and there are various films to choose from. If you are ready to bring your language knowledge to the next level, take a short cruise through my Serbian top ten.
Lajanje na zvezde (1998)
This is number one if you ask me. I know that a lot of Serbian people would disagree, but I consider it the best due to the language used, witticism, and play on words. The plot is not very complicated. The mood is romantic; kind of old-fashioned in a positive way.
It depicts high-school students who are about to graduate, and we watch characters in situations very typical for that age. It is easy to empathize with them. The dialogue is very interesting and different from the conversations of today’s typical teenagers. They had a lot of respect towards their teachers, but were also very inventive and bright-thinking.
This is one of the best book to movie adaptations. Momo Kapor, one of the most popular modern Serbian writers, wrote a story about the complicated relationship between an intelligent and beautiful student named Una and a university professor.
As one of the best students, Una had the opportunity to hold an interview with a professor whose lectures of mass media were very popular at the University. However, it was a viciously planned plot to humiliate the professor due to his controversial ideology. One supposedly innocent interview changes the lives of two people.
This film is advisable for more advanced language students. It is also advisable to read the book.
Montevideo, Bog te video! (2010)
This is also based on a book, but this time it’s by famous sports journalist Vladimir Stankovi. It takes us to Belgrade in the 1930’s. This nostalgic picture shows different values and virtues that were crucial during that post-war period. The main characters are from a young generation of actors, and to my knowledge, they managed to ignore their modern beings and transform completely into people from old Belgrade times. It was done in such a way that it was very unusual to see the main character Miloš Biković in modern clothes.
The main plot is about going on a journey to the first World Football Championship in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1930. This year becomes vivid as we see the cobblestone streets of Čubura and feel the novel hype of electricity, the birth of the radio, and the growing trend of cabaret nightclubs and Ford Model T cars. It is quite an adventure in these modern times!
The language contains some old words and phrases, but it isn’t too complicated. Luckily, you can find the film with English subtitles.
Ko to tamo peva? (1980)
This legendary film made in 1980 represents the slow drift from the single-mindedness of communism. It is very interesting that it took only 21 days to film it with a very low budget. It is said that this is one of the greatest films that the world has ever seen. It was made by one of the most famous satirists Dušan Kovačević.
The plot takes place on a bus heading towards Belgrade just before the Second World War breaks out. On one bus, you observe and analyse the whole of Serbian society at that time. All the characters are crucial, no one is a surplus, and the roles make a lot of sense.
It’s useful for Serbian language learners because a lot of Serbian people use phrases from this film in everyday conversation. Such lines easily became idioms in our language, such as the phrase, Vozi Miško! The language is also quite simple to listen to and understand.
Put oko sveta (1964)
This contains a very unusual and interesting plot written by the famous Serbian writer Branislav Nušić. He used Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days and adjusted it to a Serbian mentality. The main character is Jovanča Micić, a merchant from Jagodina in Serbia. He travels through Hungary, America (the Wild West), becomes a prisoner of pirates, and goes to China and Persia. After a very long journey, he comes back to his home town.
The language is coloured with the local dialect typical of Jagodina. That’s why he doesn’t speak as correctly as his female counterpart, a Hungarian girl who speaks Serbian with a strong Hungarian accent and a mixture of cases and bad pronunciation. The film was released in 1964.
Mi nismo anđeli (1992)
This is another cult film from Serbian cinematography. The plot revolves around two young people. Nikola is a very attractive young man who leads a reckless life and doesn’t worry about tomorrow. Marina is a polite teenage girl. She meets him one night, ends up in bed with him, and gets pregnant. Her friend helps her make Nikola fall in love with her. It is very dynamic, interesting, and unusual. A bet between an angel and the Devil creates a rise and fall in the characters, since they are in constant clash.
During the making of the film in 1992, Yugoslavia was falling apart. The army was recruiting all available men, even actors and directors. They slept in different places every night to hide and finish the film.
The movie contains slang such as fuka, mojne... (this is called šatrovački and the point is to make inversions inside the word), a few bad words, and some lines that are very popular in everyday colloquial language (Deco, jel volite brzu vožnju?, Divan si, Đuro!). These lines are accepted not only in Serbia, but also in Croatia as part of an urban dictionary.
Parade is a modern and slightly controversial film with a plot that might seem naive. However, it offers a serious criticism on relationships among Balkan people, transition, and some political issues. The greatest controversy is due to the gay relationships shown in it.
Regarding the language, you can hear an original Belgrade dialect, some phrases very typical of this city, Croatian, and pronunciation typical for Albanians and Bosnians. It’s great to compare! There are a lot of situations from real life and phrases used in these situations without any fabrication or falsity.
Tito i ja (1992)
This is a movie which represents a period of communism in a humorous and critical way. A family of wealthy origin typical of the pre-communist period plays the main roles, and their son has been rewarded for the best written assignment dedicated to Marshal Tito. His parents are artists, and the plot is completely carried through this child’s story.
What is more interesting is his language, which is not so typical for his age. His way of speaking shows his bourgeois and educated background. Serbian is dominant, but you can also hear parts in a Croatian dialect. There are also words characteristic of the late 20th century, such as onomad and buger.
Marshal Tito and the period of communism are shown in a rather negative but indirect manner. Some scenes are made in one of the most well-known castles of Vojvodina, Fantast Castle, built by Bodan Dunđerski at the beginning of the 1900’s.
Balkan ekspres (1983)
The plot of this film takes place in 1941, during the last days of peace in Serbia before the Second World War. The main characters are completely anonymous thieves who try to steal money during those insecure times when people are confused and scared. Their disguise is the music band Balkan Express. Their characters unexpectedly grow as people, human beings, and they become heroes of the day.
The dialogue is not too complicated, as they predominantly try to use facial expressions. This is due to the fact that all actions are supposed to be secret and hidden from the Nazis. You may notice the drummer, as he was the only messenger of those times.
Miroslavljevo jevanđelje (U početku beše reč, 2007)
This is for advanced students. It is documentary about the oldest document written in Cyrillic. Both the language and the narrative are quite complicated. The film is very intriguing and interesting though, with a lot of old Serbian music and scenery. Some modern and old political influences might be seen.
There are more Serbian films outside this list that are considered to be cult films or a must see. However, I have tried to choose films from different times and with various themes. I hope that you will be able to pick one and enjoy learning Serbian. After watching, share your thoughts!