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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.12.10] Romania movie review drama



Year: 2010
Director: Florin Serban
Writers: Florin Serban, Catalin Mitulescu
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Two weeks before his release, Silviu starts to crack. After serving four years as a model prisoner, news that his mother has returned from Italy and plans on taking Silviu’s little brother with her after years of neglect sends Silviu over the edge and we witness the mental collapse of a young man with nothing left on the outside worth living for.

The basic premise of Florin Serban’s debut film If I want to Whistle, I Whistle sets up a promising film and Serban mostly delivers on the promise but this is not the best of the Romanian films of late though it does up the ante with a story that allows for more emoting and action than we’ve seen from previous film made in the region that have made their way to international markets.


With an intimate look at prison life and the interactions and relationships between inmates and prison officials, If I want to Whistle, I Whistle stakes its life on the performances and relationships of the characters. Our first introduction to Silviu doesn’t provide much in the way of understanding of the character other than to know that he’s a quiet, dangerous sort. Though the danger isn’t immediately apparent, it soon becomes clear that Silviu isn’t one to cross. We only learn more of the character’s motivation as he interacts with others and it’s clear from the first meeting with his little brother that Silviu has little else awaiting him on the other side of the fence. It’s when his mother comes to see him that we see Silviu’s darker side and from this first glimpse, the story delves further into Silviu’s despair and eventually turns violent.

Shot mostly outdoors in what appears to be the middle of no where, there’s a feeling of openness and optimism that is at constant odds with Silviu’s situation and emotions. Captured by Marius Panduru in vérité-style, there’s a great immediacy and intimacy to the film which makes it feel more like a documentary than fiction.

Though it features more action than what we may be used to out of Romania, Serban’s film still features some of the staples we’ve come to expect from Romanian cinema: lots of pensive moments and limbo where the camera hardly moves and there’s little action to speak of beyond the actors emoting (or trying to emote - Pistireanu George in the role of Silviu is mostly great but occasionally gives a little too much, leading him into melodrama).

Though not the best of the prison dramas of the last few years, or even of this year, Serban’s If I want to Whistle, I Whistle is an interesting and beautiful look at one boy’s prison experience. There’s a sense that Silviu’s break could have ended with more bloodshed than it does and that it would have happened regardless of whether he was in prison or on the outside. The events that unfold in the closing twenty minutes of the film provide some of the most poignant insight into Silviu’s mental state as he seems to forget or overlook the consequences of his actions and the peril he’s leaving his brother in, choosing instead to continue with his half baked plan of escape (which never feels like his ultimate goal).

Though it loses its footing slightly with the final turn of events, If I want to Whistle, I Whistle is, none the less, a great first feature.

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projectcyclops (10 years ago) Reply

Great review. I saw this at the Edinburgh festival this year and thought it was pretty impressive. The lead performance is amazing, that kid can act.


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