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Gypsy (Cigan) poster

Release Date: 2012-06-29 (Limited)

Genre: Drama,

Rating: NR

Duration: 1hr 47min


Living in a destitute Roma village in a forgotten corner of Eastern Slovakia, a quiet teenage boy comes of age against the harsh realities of his situation. The film Gypsy (Cigan) is at once family portrait, neorealist representation of Roma life, and Shakespearean drama, set against the bleak background of a modern Gypsy village. Not a roving caravan, as depicted in popular culture, and not exactly a slum, the village is more like a discarded dark spot on the countryside, the people living there consigned to oblivion and poverty by outside society. The plot very loosely uses Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as a framework - Adam’s father dies under suspicious circumstance, his mother swiftly remarries his shady uncle Zigo, and the ghost of his father returns throughout the movie – but Adam’s social situation and temperament could not be more different than Hamlet’s and the film merely uses the plot as a device to embed itself in Adam’s experiences as his family dynamics shift and his sense of self solidifies. Gypsy is also a glimpse into a community defined by the intolerance and contempt of its surroundings. Using a string musical score that sounds mournful and medieval, director Martin Sulík artfully displays details of Roma life and culture alongside their struggles with weakness and powerlessness. As Zigo assumes his role as head of the family, he seeks to draw Adam and his brother deeper into his criminal pursuits. Zigo doesn’t just see his occasional thieving as a means to support his family, but also as a justified act against the white society that has consistently wronged his people. When white documentary filmmakers foray into the village, Zigo warns Adam not to trust them and tries to instill hatred within him. In contrast, Adam’s father had apparently been more accommodating to the whites and gave up a cycle of petty crime and time in jail for the sake of his family. But Adam must follow his own path, and the film is about his adolescent dilemma between the inevitability of a criminal future that his grim surroundings suggest, and his own sense of self-worth and dignity (sometimes boosted by a sympathetic priest). It’s not that Adam is portrayed as a self-righteous saint or principled hero. He chastises his brother for stealing, but accepts the stolen sweet he offers with barely concealed giddiness. When a white filmmakers makes an insensitive joke about gypsies, Adam leaves the table without a word. But when they offer him new shoes as an apology, he shrugs and accepts. Yet though he has little power over his future, Adam’s innate sense of decency and loyalty to family weigh heavily on him. Balanced on the precarious brink of adulthood, he seeks to find peace with his father’s death and can’t help but question where his path will lead. Perhaps Gypsy’s particular answer to Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” comes from Adam’s ghostly father: “A gypsy can live like a human here only when he stops being a gypsy,” he says, as he hands him the avenging knife.

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