Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Gypsy: A Roma Tragedy
the Roma have been ethnically targeted by police forces worldwide, far beyond
the much derided “racial profiling” of current controversies. As a result, it was already hard being Roma
in an area like eastern Slovakia, but the death of Adam’s father makes things
much worse for the young man. His mother’s
hasty marriage to his thuggish uncle does not help either in Martin Šulík’s
Shakespearean social issue drama Gypsy (trailer here), which opens this
Wednesday in New York at Film Forum.
the echoes of Hamlet, Adam’s father
was hardly the King of the Roma and he is certainly no prince. He is still visited by his father’s ghost,
but the dear departed is more concerned with his son’s well being than seeking
vengeance for his early demise. Still,
there is something naggingly suspicious about the accident that claimed the old
reformed ruffian’s life.
with resentment for “whitey,” Uncle Žigo is not a stabilizing influence. Much to Adam’s alarm, he involuntarily
recruits the young man and his more passive brother for a number of dubious
criminal schemes. The local Catholic
priest tries to keep Adam on the straight and narrow, but he is no match for
the brutish Žigo. Meanwhile, Adam pursues
his Ophelia, the younger but less tragic Jula, but again, his Uncle’s ruthless
gangsterism is a hindrance.
Gypsy does not try to correspond to Hamlet on a one-to-one basis. In addition to many obvious plot diversions, the
dynamics of Adam’s interpersonal relations differ in subtle but important
ways. Most importantly, unlike Claudius,
Žigo’s villainous nature is unambiguously established. Whether or not he killed Adam’s father, he is
undeniably a bad guy.
and co-writer Marek Leščák are also clearly out to make a statement about the
living standards endured by the nearly universally despised Roma of Eastern
Europe. Frankly, the conditions of Adam’s
settlement are almost pristine compared to what some muckraking docs have
recorded. Regardless, the violent
prejudice of the Slovakian coppers is hard to miss.
like a decidedly young fourteen, Janko Mižigár gives a remarkably assured,
quietly forceful performance as the barely teenaged protagonist. He also has some nice youthful infatuation
chemistry with Martinka Kotlárová’s Jula.
Yet, his strongest, most resonate scenes are played with Ivan Mirga,
appearing as his spectral father.
Šulík has a sharp eye for detail, conveying a full
picture of the Roma’s outcast existence.
While his chief antagonist is not exactly an overpoweringly malevolent
presence, young Mižigár’s forceful work is quite noteworthy throughout. Grim, gritty, and periodically brutal, Gypsy is not a pretty picture,
notwithstanding some handsomely framed shots from cinematographer Martin Šec. However, it holds a mirror up to nature quite
effectively, while telling a relentlessly naturalistic coming of age
story. Recommended for those who enjoy
tragic drama spiked with consciousness-raising realism, Gypsy opens this Wednesday (6/27) at New York’s Film Forum.
Labels: Roma Cinema, Slovakian Cinema