Romanian auteur Corneliu Porumboiu has spent the better part of the past decade making a name for himself with winning the multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival for his, The Treasure and 12:08 East of Bucharest.
Now, his latest film, The Whistlers, is making its way through the festival circuit and giving the audiences at Fantastic Fest a look at Romania’s Oscar Submission for best international feature as a corrupt cop seeks to beat the surveillance watching him by being taught the Indigenous language based on whistling from the mob on the Canary Islands.
Porumboiu, known for realism and stark minimalism has created a tightly woven story as Cristi, a cop under investigation for corruption travels to the Canary Island of La Gormea where he works with the emplaced mob to plan and execute the escape of convicted businessman, Zsolt in order to lead them to millions of dollars in drug money and dodges his surveillance by learning the indigenous language that’s based on whistling.
Porumboiu’s crafted a tight story that moves easily between all nine of the characters in this story. The story plays out in its own time, felt natural, and allowed you to truly get engaged with these characters. Porumbiou’s use of realize truly shines throughout this story but never more so with the fact there’s very little in the way of dialogue. It creates a truly unique experience in storytelling that North American audiences rarely get. It’s very similar to the experience one gets watching an Orson Wells film.
Porumboiu has a great deal of fun with the use of colour to tell his story. As we’re juxtaposed from the very monochromatic colours of Bucharest and Cristi’s story as a cop unfolding there to the bright shores of La Gomera as he learns the whistling language.
It’s a fun tool to tell the story and also shape these characters as Porumboiu explores the limitations of language. What can be said in a look? Or in how you dress?
Snowpirecer’s, Vlad Ivanov leads a solid cast as Cristi. He plays Cristi close to the chest and gradually opens him up. Porumboiu allows cracks in his armor to show throughout the story and it plays well against Cristi’s stone face to create a very 3-dimensional character. Especially against, Catrinel Marlon’s Gilda. Gilda is the girlfriend of the head of the mob and won’t shy away from doing what she needs to get what she wants. None more true that when she convinces Cristi to join their plan to break Zsolt from custody. Marlon’s enjoys the role and plays against Ivanov exceptionally well.
Throughout his career, Porumboiu, has proven time and time again that he’s exceptionally skilled at telling strong and well-made stories. The Whistlers is no different. It’s a twisting tale full of double-crossings and plays off in some genuinely unexpected ways. The Whistlers is a strong contender for best foreign feature film and well worth 3 1/2 stars out of 5. My only real issue with this film is the whistling language of Silbo Gomero. While being fairly real, the time spent on Cristi learning this language never truly had a great pay off. But despite this, The Whistlers is a solid thriller that will leave you leaning forward in your seat as Porumboiu brings his characters the climax of his story.
The Whistlers is currently screening at Fantastic Fest on the festival circuit. Check it out when it hits theatres and video.