After being forced through the nigh unbearable endurance test of Werckmeister Harmonies and coming out the other end mostly unscathed, it was time to watch Time of the Gypsies, a Yugoslave film by director Emir Kusturica. I’ll admit, after Werckmeister Harmonies I was quite weary of watching this next film. Turns out my fears were completely unfounded. Time of the Gypsies is the sort of film I wish was made more often. Equal parts The 400 Blows and The Godfather, with a dash of Jorge Luis Borges to give it a fantastical charm. The film is an absolute breath of fresh air, and one I’d have no trouble recommending to anyone with a taste for truly great cinema.
Time of the Gypsies tells a sprawling coming of age tale about a boy teenage boy, named Perhan, who falls in love and later leaves home with a band of criminals. No joke, the film is a story of family, love, crime, growing up, success, loss, betrayal and just about everything else under the sun. What’s more, the story is told in a beautiful, charming manner; it’s one of the easiest 140 minutes I’ve ever seen.
The pace is fluid and the emotions are high. I wouldn’t quite call the film melodramatic, but there is definitely a strong sense of the exaggerated, and sometimes even the absurd. It’s a film about children, and it feels childish. That’s not to say it’s light. There is some very heavy subject matter at hand, but it all moves along like the ramblings of an enthusiastic child.
Kusturica also brings magical realism into the equation in the most wonderful way. I did not expect to see actual magic in the film, but when those moments first appeared they fit naturally into its wild tone. What’s more, the magic mixes with the world of the dream so as to blur the lines between the two. Time of the Gypsies becomes, in essence, a dream. And such a wonderful dream. Time moves imperceptibly, ramping speed and slowing down without calling too much attention to that fact. Geography becomes a character in the film, but it is always on such a localized level that vast distances barely register at all. This is a kind of filmmaking I’m not very used to, but I love it with all my heart.
As I journey deeper and deeper into the world of film obscurity I discover more and more treasures. The latest treasure is Time of the Gypsies. I cannot overstate just how much this film spoke to me. To give you an idea: I loved it so much I watched it twice before writing this review. That’s right. Twice. Two times, in a row. It’s that good. Now, quit reading this review and go watch it already!