Film Movement // 2010 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // July 8th, 2011
What Would You Do to Protect Your Own?
Silviu (George Pistereanu) is a mere two weeks away from being released from juvenile detention. He has spent four years in the brutal Romanian facility, but is looking forward to being reunited with his neglected younger brother Marius (Marian Bratu). He also sees some light at the end of his dim dark light tunnel when a kindly social worker, Ana (Ada Condeescu), takes a shine to him. During a routine family visit, Silviu gets some disturbing news. His absentee mother (Clara Voda, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) has returned from Italy, and is planning on taking Marius back with her. Realizing what this means, Silviu grows desperate...and violent. He doesn't want to ruin his chances at parole. But if he doesn't do something quickly, he will lose the one thing he cares about most of all.
Dark, gritty, and organic, If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle is a clever combination of several genres. With its neo-realistic view of life in a Romanian detention facility, it provides a more accurate and less exploitative view of prison. Similarly, since we are dealing with lost boys committing acts that society sees as detrimental (but they deem necessary), we get the juvenile delinquency angle as well. Then there's the family in crisis, the bond between brothers, the study of disaffected youth in a foreign land, and perhaps the most impressive of all, the dire circumstances of a nation finally awaking after almost five decades in a Communist coma. Indeed, one of the best things about If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle is to see the compare and contrast back and forth, the way in which Western cinema has influenced the rest of the world while actual location and cultural history take said tenets and rework them to fit such a foreign set of situations.
There is a naturalism and organic feel to this film, even when we sense where the story is going. Because Silviu, played by an aggressive non-actor, is so wanting and unpredictable, we can sense his tale will not end well. The actions he takes, however, do seem balanced between his desire to escape and his need to remain calm and leave on his own terms. We take the circumstances and break them down into components of consideration -- i.e. would I do something similar? Though we will never really find ourselves in his position, director Florin Serban makes the issue both believable and insular. Perhaps because it is based on a play, the deeper thought is inherent in the script. But for the most part, the cast must create the aura of authenticity, which Serban making sure the camera is in the right place. While utilizing a by now almost hackwork style of handheld cinema verite, the narrative is so compelling we excuse the arty ruse.
As for the tech specs present, the film has an unusual look. Grainy with a kind of 'found in a box' appeal, the 16:9 presentation is far from pristine. This is probably on purpose, since the film is supposed to mimic the harsh truths of contemporary Romania and life in a juvenile facility. As for the sound situation, the Dolby Digital Stereo delivers a decent mix. Dialogue (subtitled in English) is easy to understand while the other aural issues are balanced well. As for added content, we get the standard short selection from Film Movement. This one is called Kiss, and highlights a young boy's interest in his member of the military father. As they ritualistically prepare for his next "mission," we see a child's vision of war meshed with its often cold realities. It's interesting, if not wholly engaging. Elsewhere, we are treated to a trailer for Whistle and some brief cast and crew bios.
As a singular slice of life, as a way of looking at a familiar genre concept through the eyes of another country, If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle is very interesting indeed. It may not be a classic, but its power is undeniable.
Not guilty. A raw, gritty experience.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Film Movement
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Romanian)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film