Vardan Tozija's The Whistler examines an authoritarian dystopia in the not too distant future of Skopje and the beginning of an uprising. Set on the centennial anniversary of the historic earthquake which ravaged Skopje, it seeks to capture the clashing feelings of hope and despair in a time where everything seems lost.
The story wastes no time diving into the dark tone set by the dominance of black and white colour tones, uniform police enforcers and senseless executions. The overseer of the CCTV footage of the executions is not as much a security precaution as it is a front row seat to show of ruthless killings. Backed by his close up shots implying the gruesome and sadistic nature of the regime, we become visually intimate with the overseer and all his physical imperfections, messy hair, crooked teeth and sweat.
Korunovski's dark-suited villain does his role more justice visually than audibly. Both the overseer and judge overuse grimaces involving the tongue to depict the immature and disgusting features in charge. The apathetic, calculated and authoritative figure he portrays falls short under the dialogue with Lilik's masked man through a couple of minute oversights and logical gaps in the conversation. A noticeable age difference between the two opposing sides alludes to the titanomachy at play. His unrivaled authority as judge, jury and executioner, however, is a bit too easily brought down, making it seems as if the villain held no power at all. Although Korunovski's character is meant to be bored during the executions, accenting the wicked regime, his slurred delivery suggests a lazy performance.
While the film does a good job on using nostalgia as the basis for an excellent idea, the script drags the production quality down. Lilik's uninhibited use of swear words and unconvincing execution detracts from the seriousness of the character as a first impression of the rebellion. All the attire, posture and mystery are for nothing when the dialogue leaves a hole in the character.
The colourless, under-saturated monotony of the picture is broken only by the rebels’ reddish scarf protruding from their dark overcoats. It is representative of the political stance of discontent and willingness to shed blood. Moreover, the absence of actual blood adds to the scarf’s symbolism as an ideal worth fighting and dying for. As an artistic choice it bolsters the core theme of rebellion against evil by broadening the colour palette.
In fact, the entire cinematography is stunning with its versatile uses of shot and counter-shot, zooms, over-views and stills. The precise editing coupled with it results in a visually very pleasant experience. It seems no scene in the film was shot without much forethought, from the first shot of the hammer being struck to the last shot of Skopje's skyline during sunrise.
Skopje radost ti ke bidesh is the musical queue of the rebellion, a song written to give hope to the people of Skopje after its catastrophic earthquake in 1963. Amidst the electronic alarm sounds, the hammer of injustice, the button mashing, gunshots and kicks and loudspeaker announcements, a singsong melody rises from the chaos to change the atmosphere. I personally believe it would have had a much stronger effect had the initial melody been sung by Lilik, rather than played by a nondiegetic piano.
The song being whistled during the shootout is wonderfully synonymous with the undying characteristics of such a symbol. Removing their flat caps and whistling the tune, the rebels highlight its importance and power, all the while the overseer sits helpless in the control room. He is finally greeted by the tune from behind, being the last sound he hears before the red dawn over Skopje. A harmless tune serves as a harbinger to the regime.
The film exhibits a well-rounded synchronicity between shot and sound, with the exception of the short fight scene. The superficiality of the narration is somewhat absurd, as it explains what the intended demographic already know, but does not go into enough detail for a wider audience. There are also several creative aspects that could have been attended to, to give the story a more realistic feel, such as having Lilik's character speak with the accent unique to Skopje.
Themes such as that of The Whistler are unexplored in the domain of Macedonian film, and are a firm starting point for delving further into science fiction.