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"Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluier" (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle) is
a complex drama about an inmate(Silviu) at a prison in Romania who is
to be released in 15 days, but finds out that his mother just came back
from Italy and she wants to take his younger brother there with her.
Also she wants to leave in 7 days, a thing which Silviu cannot accept.
The movie is not for everybody and cannot be compared with other movies related to prisons, prisoners or stuff like that. It does not have clever escape plans, surprising events or crazy shootings. What made this movie so successful at Berlin Festival (where it won two awards, including the Silver Bear) was the unique way of directing from Florin Serban, but also the intense drama of the situation which drives Silviu to extreme limits, making him do the most unthinkable things. Also in Silviu's life appears Ana, a young intern who has to make interviews with inmates.
Again, this movie is not for the masses. An average movie viewer today will probably become bored, will think this movie has no point and so on. Due to today's trend in the movie industry, films like these are ignored and labeled as bad movies. Luckily, there are still critics like those from the Berlin Film Festival which can rate a movie to its true value.
A visual artist knows that adding a little dot of light in the iris could change the whole portrait or even ruin the initial intention. Not adding the right dot, could have the same effect. Finding THAT balance, something needed in everything we do! That balance is written all over this movie! One reviewer from Romania is fed up with "movies about low-end society family problems". I don't know if Romanians make only such movies but this one is certainly not about Romania. And here the balance I was talking about becomes clear: a simple, personal tragedy may look unimportant to others but to the one who is tormented by it, it becomes life itself. The whole movie is feeding on this sentence, if I may say so. It dictates the filming and editing style (kudos for editing!), the choice of characters, dialog (probably improvised) and everything else. The movie is quiet (almost no soundtrack, very long minutes of no dialog, long takes) and yet the tension and ugliness of the personal horror could deafen someone. The hand held camera is also barely noticeable (someone was complaining about it), far from a Dogma head ache. This slight shake is a reminder the story is not a studio pose but a live action. The theme could be illustrated in many other ways, and it's been done before, probably because the theme is so human and unfortunately forever recurrent. But what impressed me the most is the movie as a whole. The film maker, if I can make him "responsible" for the result, must be a very elegant man, in terms of manners. A man that doesn't shout out his empathy but presents it on a silver tray. Bravo!
How far you can you go recruiting on-the-scene actors? Director Danny
Boyle tried to use real drug addicts in Granton, Edinburgh, when he
started making Trainspotting. Until crew were physically threatened and
told to provide hard drugs or else. Tarantino took on ex-criminal Ed
Bunker ('Mr Blue') to give Reservoir Dogs an authentic look. But
assembling a cast from real convicts? Which is what director Florin
Serban does in If I Want to Whistle I Whistle.
Although violence, if it occurs, does happen with lightning realism, it's the psychological threat, and switching convincingly from innocent charm to frightening killer, which portrays the crim's survival instincts so much more effectively.
Our story centres around a youth who blames his whorish mother for a bad upbringing. He wants two things just now in life. To save a sibling (whom he raised for eight years) from his own dissolute fate; and maybe to enjoy the real company of a sweet and attractive young prison trainee. To be 'normal.' To get married or sit in freedom with a beautiful girl enjoying a coffee on the outside. Good impulses you might think. But the excessive, violent and life-threatening means that this youngster might go to in achieving them challenges our sympathies.
Serban adapted a theatre play, incorporating elements in an acting workshop at Minors' and Youth Penitentiaries in Romania over a couple of months. "The most important things that we kept were the spirit and attitude of the inmates, the bold, uncompromising, somehow childish way of thinking and jumping into action without caring too much for the consequences. The determination of reaching a goal no matter what it takes to get there." Even his two main leads are new to acting and learn on the job remarkable for such impressive performances.
Eighteen-year-old Chiscan has initial warmth that makes you notice him in a crowd. A charismatic but tough cookie, holding his own to get on with the other inmates. A four year sentence should end in 15 days if he stays out of trouble. Not long enough to prevent his brother from being taken abroad. Meanwhile, he must negotiate blackmail threats from other inmates to which his imminent release makes him vulnerable. A low level of threat pervades the film till hell kicks loose. We wonder when it will erupt. When it does so, it happens without warning and not the way we expect.
The absence of distracting background music and sincere performances help to make this film very engaging and watchable. The plot remains continuously unpredictable. An appearance among the staff of Ana, trainee and sociology student, adds more to the mix than men left unfazed by teenage hormones. We sense a physical attraction that could go horribly wrong. Our emotional allegiance shifts as the film gathers pace like gears crashing without a clutch. Everyone has faults, staff and prisoners. I look for the person I can most identify as 'normal.' Like Ana (professionally and morally), it's as if I want mentally to encourage good threads within someone but protected from errors of judgement.
The lasting fascination of If I Want to Whistle I Whistle is seeing into the mind of someone in this way. Someone who can summon lightning reflexes. Display real or threatened extreme brutality. Become horrifically highly focused to achieve a result, however crazy. The movie won a Silver Bear at this year's (2010) prestigious Berlin International Film Festival. Pistireanu George, who plays Chiscan Silviu, had his first chance to act and equipped himself prodigiously (He has since become a first year student at the National University of Theatre and Film from Bucharest.) Florin Serban plans to open an acting school for people who never had anything to do with acting. "For somebody who has only heard that they are good at nothing and less than a dog in the street, it's a huge thing to realize that he can engage an audience with his simple presence, with one smile, one gesture and that he can make 200 people laugh or shiver at once." He believes deeply in acting as a healing process. "I imagine a place where people can act out their inner demons and explore places that can only be dreamt of." The film is low budget one and to an extent experimental. It suffers from being art-house niche and not being able to tackle themes in a more universal manner. But at the end you feel you have gone away with real insights into the mind of dangerous young offenders.
Is not necessarily a bad movie and for a new viewer of Romanian movies could be quite interesting. The problems of the movie are the theme and filming style. I'm sick and tired of Romanian movies filmed from hand to provide reality (if I want reality I open the door or the TV) and also to see movies about low-end society family problems. I don't need to go to cinema and pay to have a better understanding of 5 o'clock TV news. Romania is much more better than it's low life and I hope one day, Romanian movie makers will stop pushing forward the garbage (for other to pity us) and start doing movies to promote us as we really are: beautiful, smart and extremely funny!
Sadly, only a few savvy reviewers seem to have gotten the point in, If
I Want To Whistle I Whistle. Rather than what it is about, this film is
not about many things: it is not a film about Romania, about prisons,
about troubled youth, nor about prison breaks (and certainly not about
'Prison Brake', as the nitwit who only saw the trailer put it).
This is simply a film about an individual's highly charged personal drama. It's a story that could happen anywhere on earth to anybody at all. I knew it would be good when in the first two minutes I got that churning feeling in my gut that something just wasn't right.
Despite the prison setting, the inmates don't really seem to have the sort of animosity towards one another as one sees in all American prison movies. The guards, too, seem to be easy going, chatting rather casually with the prisoners who are working outdoors and making the best of it by singing and carrying on some light banter. And yet, the tension is somehow palpable. I don't know why anybody would complain about the pacing here. It makes no pretense to being an action film, and for the story it's telling, the pacing is spot on.
There is an intense focus on Silviu, the protagonist, who learns from his younger brother that their mother has arrived to take him back to Italy with her a week before Silviu is due to be released. In fact this is the basic premise of the movie, and even before I started it I expected that it would likely end up being rather flat and uninteresting. I mostly felt obliged by the number of nods Romanian films have gotten lately at International Festivals (including this one, in Berlin). I made the right choice.
This is a Drama in the real sense of the word; an examination of raw emotions that surround one's personal microcosm and all the things, little and small, that those around you may know about but can't possibly understand. The director manages to put the audience in Silviu's shoes every step of the way. You feel for him, you question him, and the whole time the tension mounts as you're wondering how it's all going to end up.
There is no reason to post any spoilers here, more detail will take away from the experience should you choose to watch it. I commend the actors who were brilliant, particularly George Pistereanu's, Silviu, but also the Director, Florin Serban, for his vision and the crew who took part in the production. While it's not the glossy type of film Hollywood's gotten us used to, it's very obvious that a lot of thought went into making it and that's why I rate it as highly as I do. 9/10
It's the most interesting film country in Europe at the moment and this
has been going on for a couple of years now.
You have seen many movies from youth correctional institutions. The main character here has only a couple of days left, when his mother reluctantly arrives. This changes the film from a movie about a prison to a movie about life conditions and betrayal.
If your existence is destroyed, is it worth the price to have some hours of good life? Even if it's phony? The answer here is yes. A strong film which puts the important questions. Sometimes you must fight desperately to have what you already have.
I don't usually write movie reviews, but I was so impressed after watching that I couldn't stand some of the bad reviews that were written here. This movie is indeed not for everyone. But that's the whole point of it and what brings value to it. If you were expecting some afternoon fun maybe you were watching the wrong movie. I don't like all those Romanians who are not confident about their own identity and keep bragging about the Romanian movie "industry". This movie proves that we can still make good movies on a low budget. Even if the storyline may have been a bit exaggerated the director has made an excellent portrait of Romanian prisons and of the drama that goes with it. The "reality" is "straigh in your face" and that's what I was expecting from it. The end is unexpected and fresh.
When I want to whistle, I whistle. That means I would do Anything to get where I want.I am begging everybody, I am humiliating myself I let people spit in my face, but I would do anything, and if by begging,by trying to get the minimum of understanding, I can't do it, then I can give up all the chances of happiness I still have left. Living in the post communist Romania can be a bigger drama for an individual, but that drama is hidden and digs dipper and dipper because it's not shared by anyone. Your mother works in Italy because of financial reasons. She also discovers another world, things that she never had before, and by sending some money home she thinks she's making it up. After her son gets to be institutionalised...she doesn't want to feel the guilt so she pretends to forget. Who's drama is this one?Silviu's?his mother's? his brother's? Everyones!!! But only Silviu feels the burden, only he wants to change something. It is not the result, but his spirit that matter. His spirit is alive, and everybody else is peacefully pleased with the same old. Institutionalized sanity. His sanity manifests itself as insanity in an insane society... There's a strong silence, sometimes we can even listen to it and understand it.
This film is full of suspense, tragedy, and irony. With the focus on
excellent acting and directing, rather than special effects and music,
this movie incites the viewer to ponder its messages long after the
last credits. Raising issues related to the importance of parenting,
the frustration of hoping when the system is against you, and the role
administrators play in keeping the accused, even when rehabilitation is
imminent, in prison.
In this film director Florin Serban's mastery lies in his ability to create an intense atmosphere parallel to that which Sergio Leone created in the "Spaghetti Westerns" of the mid-twentieth century. The tension felt when just a few forceful words are combined with meaningful body language is remarkable. Actor George Pistereanu is a talent to keep watching; his powerful interpretation of the role of Silviu is as charming and convincing as it is haunting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all let me destroy a wrong perception: this is not a movie
about Romania or about the Romanian society. People should stop
thinking like Iliescu that all Romanian movies with bad things
happening are a critique to the society (Iliescu prohibited in the 90
Rona Hartner from entering Romania and her movie Gadjo Dilo). There are
a lot of prison movies American, Russian or from other parts that treat
the sociological aspect of imprisonment, but this is not one of them.
This movie is just a portrait of a drama. The main character is a forced to grow adolescent who knows nothing about the society and is sentenced to in-adaptability. His only connections with the world, thin threads of dreams that he hangs on without even knowing why, are his brother that he is trying to protect even without any resources, and his unfulfilled and destined to die love for Ana. This kid probably knows he has no future and this eruption of violence is just the inevitable. As inevitable as his permanence in the only system that integrates him. Who knows, if this would not have happen he would have done other stuff to stay inside.
In an ocean of solitude he got his 5 minutes date with the girl with whom doesn't shares not even the taste of a coffee.
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