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During WWII a youth deserts his country's army after a combat experience, but not before wounding his commanding officer with a knife in order to escape. The young man, now very emotionally distraught, dresses in women's clothes and eventually joins a passing gypsy caravan, who think him a young girl... as well as a kind of seer, or 'rawney'. In time, however, he regains some composure and becomes attracted to one of the gypsy girls, which only leads to problems within the gypsy band, especially when the wounded commanding officer finds him Written by
For the dubious delights ostensibly a portion of being a director, Bob Hoskins as his first effort selects a highly symbolic subject set in an unidentified nation suffering from a long-term war during the mid-20th century, with an eclectic assemblage of Gypsies as the center of the scenario that depicts the group's determined efforts to avoid becoming involved in the strife, and additionally of a young army deserter whose plight causes him to follow the Rom caravan, with attendant amorous and other dramatic complications at issue. The former soldier, Tom (Dexter Fletcher), has his face gaudily painted and his body adorned with a woman's frock by a little girl who has become deranged after her family's slaughter for sheltering another deserter and after he enters their camp, his garish appearance convinces the Gypsies that the visitor is a madwoman (Rawney), his story based upon a combination of legends cobbled together by Hoskins who co-scripts and casts himself as Darky, leader of the Traveling entourage. It is a unique film, and a viewer will not be able to easily rely upon established frames of reference when watching it, lest one lose one's aesthetic bearings, the Romani genealogical background of Hoskins being apparent in his positive attitudes toward the Gypsies, although there are substantial compromises made for commercial reasons, and inaccuracies abound throughout, particularly in relation to the music that is quite wonderful and also quite largely Celtic and English. Blessed with a wealth of strong imagery and incident, the piece is performed well by the cast, including many Czechs, as it was shot in the former Czechoslovakia, with Zoë Nathenson and Gawn Grainger earning the acting laurels, the former for her splendid turn as a young Gypsy woman who sees through the Rawney's disguise and takes advantage of her secret knowledge, the latter as the commanding officer of the local rampaging military force. A funeral scene is unforgettable and many others remain forward in the memory, including a spirited but unGypsy-like wedding and predominant are stereotypical aspects of supposed Rom or Traveller life, but on balance the direction, acting, music and top-notch post-production work place the film in a category of its own, one that a true cinephile may wish to own.
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