Romania Goes to Juvie in If I Want to Whistle, I'll Whistle

Youthful offender, two years in juvenile detention and only a week from release, gets a visit from his dysfunctional family and flips out big-time in this memorable first feature from fertile Romania. For most of its 94 minutes, Florin Serban’s If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle is straightforward and observational, using a largely non-professional cast to dramatize the prison routine and its sometimes mysterious hierarchy, as well as the pressures building inside the close-cropped skull of its handsome antihero, Silviu (neophyte actor George Pistereanu).


If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
Directed by Florin Serban
Film Movement
January 5 through 18, Film Forum

Understatement only heightens the sense of smoldering resentment. Self-contained Silviu, often shown in Dardenne-style back-of-the-head close-ups plowing through his confined world, is fatally unable to articulate his situation—a plight emphasized by the pretty young sociology student (Ada Condeescu) who arrives on a mission to interview the inmates. If I Want to Whistle is slack yet taut—tension builds whenever Serban hits the narrative pause button. Even once all hell finally breaks loose, the suspense is enhanced by lengthy stand-offs, real-time delays, and pervasive confusion on how to best handle a situation gone wildly out of control. The viewer is prompted to ponder the crisis’s possible (and unpredictable) resolution as well as the degree to which Silviu’s freak-out was premeditated. It’s a measure of the movie’s success that one oscillates between two despairs—noting the abject failure of the system and the utter futility of revolt.

My Voice Nation Help

Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Box Office Report

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!