The last yard is always the hardest

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle

on January 08, 2011 by Ed Scheid
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The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize Winner at the Berlin Film Festival, If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle, is another notable film from Romania. A young man in a juvenile detention center is approaching his release, but mounting strain and a family crisis cause him to act rashly with dangerous consequences. Shooting with a gritty realism and casting actual juvenile inmates, debut director Florin Serbin sustains a raw tension as the central character becomes increasingly desperate. The accessible story and fast-paced action scenes could draw a good arthouse audience, more than usual for a Romanian film.

Silviu (George Pistereanu) has just two weeks left in his sentence in a miserable detention facility. Repeatedly bullied by the hostile inmates, the rare bright spot in his life is his friendly rapport with Ana (Ada Condeescu), a young social worker. Silviu looks forward to being with his younger brother whom he raised since their mother left them to seek employment abroad. Stress mounts when, during visitation time, the brother (Marian Bratu) tells Silviu that their mother plans to take him to Italy before the end of Silviu's sentence. When she (Clara Voda) visits, Silviu reacts with hostility at her plans to take his brother.

Pistereanu, in his first acting performance, persuasively conveys Silviu's mounting frustration and fierce anger as he is driven to the breaking point. This forceful performance was nominated for Best Actor at the European Film Awards. Cast as a non-professional actor, Pistereanu is now an acting student in Bucharest. In a futile attempt at freedom, Silviu hits a guard with a chair and takes a hostage by holding a shard of glass against the neck. Silviu's fellow inmates cheer him on while the warden (Mihai Constantin) tries to control the damage.

The screenplay, co-written by Serbin, was adapted with significant changes from a stage play. For authenticity, Serbin worked for over two months with boys in two minor and youth penitentiaries in Romania. Serbin said that he wanted to examine people behind the headlines who are often condemned without ever exposing the reason for the actions on which they're judged.

During filming, the young inmates who appeared in supporting parts were brought to the set with guards. The cast, which includes well-known Romanian actors, is extremely effective. As director, Serbin builds anxiety for Silviu as he continues his reckless standoff with authorities. As his options diminish, the story has an inevitability that weakens the film's ultimate impact.

Distributor: Film Movement
Cast: George Pistereanu, Ada Condeescu, Clara Voda, Mihai Constantin and Marian Bratu
Director: Florin Serban
Screenwriters: Catalin Mitulescu and Florin Serban
Producers: Catalin Mitulescu and Daniel Mitulescu
Genre: Drama; Romanian-language, subtitled
Running time: 93 min
Release date: January 5 NY

 

Tags: Daniel Mitulescu, Catalin Mitulescu, Florin Serban, Marian Bratu, Mihai Constantin, Clara Voda, Ada Condeescu, George Pistereanu
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