Gypsy: Film Review

Martin Sulik film Gypsy - H 2012

Martin Sulik film Gypsy - H 2012

Neo-realism awkwardly meets Hamlet in this evocative portrait of a Slovakian gypsy community.

Although Martin Sulik's drama sheds light on typically unseen populations of Eastern Europe, the film, heavy on "Hamlet" allusions, may be overstuffed.

Awkwardly blending neo-realism with heavy-handed allusions to Hamlet, Gypsy depicts the troubled life of a Roma teen in Slovakia with ethnological precision but turgid dramaturgy. Although valuable for shedding light on this relatively unseen population of Eastern Europe, Martin Sulik’s film, currently receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere at NYC’s Film Forum, suffers from serious overstuffing. 

The central character is fourteen-year-old Adam (Janko Mizigar), whose father (Ivan Mirga) is run down by a car and killed under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter, his mother (Miroslava Jarabekova) marries his uncle, Zigo (Miroslav Gulyas), a shady loan shark who wastes no time enlisting Adam and his brother Marian (Martin Hangurbadzo), who is addicted to glue sniffing, into his nefarious activities.

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Countering Zigo’s malicious presence -- he has no compunction about fleecing his “whitey” victims -- is a local priest (Attila Mokos) who, in shades of a 1930s Warner Bros. melodrama, attempts to channel the village kids’ energies into such positive activities as boxing.

Further adding to the Shakespearean borrowings are the repeated appearances of the ghost of Adam’s father, who provides a series of dramatic plot revelations.

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Other characters figuring in the convoluted narrative are Adam’s strong- willed girlfriend (Martina Kotlarova) and a crew of white documentary filmmakers whose friendliness doesn’t quite disguise their underlying racism.

Shot in an actual Slovakian Roma community and leavened with generous doses of gypsy folk music, the film boasts an undeniable authenticity that is aided by the gritty performances of the largely non-actor cast. But the filmmaker can’t resist throwing in an occasional burst of lyricism, especially in a sequence involving stolen ostriches. But sometimes, an ostrich is just an ostrich.

Production: In Film, Titanic, RTVS, CT.

Cast: Janko Mizigar, Martin Hangurbadzo, Martinka Kotlarova, Miroslava Jarabekova, Miroslav Gulyas, Ivan Mirga, Attila Mokos.

Director: Martin Sulik.

Screenwriters: Maret Lescak, Martin Sulik.

Producers: Rudolf Biermann, Martin Sulik.

Director of photography: Martin Sec.

Editor: Jiri Brozek.

Music: Peter Mojzis.

Production designer: Frantisek Liptak.

No rating, 107 min.