Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Whistlers is a thrilling and refreshing neo-noir tale of deceit and greed. The story revolves around a dirty cop named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) who is recruited by femme fatale Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) to help free her partner Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea) from prison. Only Zsolts knows the whereabouts of a mattress containing 30 million dollars.
Locating the money hinges on Cristi traveling to the Canary Island of La Gomera and mastering the ancient “El Siblo” language. Sounding like bird calls to the untrained ear, the whistling dialect was used by the island’s Spanish indigenous inhabitants to communicate across vast spaces. El Siblo is the perfect cover for relaying information without law enforcement knowing.
Constructing a layered narrative, Porumboiu constantly challenges the viewer’s perceptions of unfolding events. Seemingly off-handed remarks take on deeper connotations in the film’s non-linear storytelling approach. Though steeped in the masculine themes, it is women like Gilda and Cristi’s shady boss Magda (Rodica Lazar) who prove to be the most fascinating characters. Often the sharpest person in the room, Gilda is frequently utilizing ever tool in her arsenal, including her femininity, to stay one step ahead of everyone else.
Taking a unique approach to the examination of language, The Whistlers wonderfully blows new life into familiar genre tropes.