"A poor woman who sells something that many poor men want."
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/16/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Viewers expecting a salacious, scandalous and sexy voyeuristic romp into the underworld of Croatian prostitution are going to be a bit disappointed by Austrian director Michael Sturminger's Whore's Son. By European art-house standards the film is a rather tame and PG thirteen psychosexual exploration of a young boy's feelings towards his prostitute mother.
Although the film is spoilt a bit by the opening admission, the idea that the handsome Ozren (a terrific Stanislav Lisnic) has some kind of latent crush on his mother holds much of the movie together. Living in a ramshackle apartment on the outskirts of what is probably Berlin, Ozren is the only child of Silvija, a mercurial, unmarried Croatian woman who supports herself and her son by working as a hooker.
Silvija and Ozren live a hand-to-mouth existence, with Silvija and the other girls having a reputation around the tenement in which they live. The young mother obviously loves her son, but in a moody and almost volatile way. Whilst Silvia dresses up to each night and heads off to work, she leaves Ozren in the care of her widowed older sister, Ljiljana (Ina Gogalova), a religious woman who makes sure Ozren is fed and in bed before his mother returns home to their cramped apartment, often with some man she's picked up somewhere.
Silvija's brother Ante (Miki Manojlovic) who also looks after Ozren is a Tito loyalist whose affection for the late Great Leader only grows even stronger when war breaks out in the former Yugoslavia. The adults in Ozren's life try to keep him in the dark as much as possible about his mother's occupation, but as the boy reaches puberty, he starts to question whether his mother is really the waitress she purports to be.
A john's driver, however, has already called Ozren a "whore's son," and Ante's coworker has answered the boy's questions about the meaning of the word "whore" with a lewd hand gesture. But nothing can hide his growing fascination with this beautiful woman that is his mother. As Silvija begins to adopt a more up-market clientele, wining and dining on the other side of the tracks, Ozren becomes ever more obsessed with her.
Eventually left alone by his mother, while she rents an upscale apartment in the city, Ozren and gets a job cleaning the Mercedes strip club run by Pepi (Georg Friedrich), a good-natured and kindhearted pimp. Occasionally he lets Ozren peer in through a peephole as one of his girls plies her trade. Ozren still continues to adore his mother even when he finally realizes what she is.
The performances are mostly pretty good, the standout being Lisnic as the teenage Ozren; he has a sullen, brooding and totally sensual quality that lends itself beautifully to this kind of role. Obviously the themes are abandonment and how far a son will go to for love, but the film stalls a bit in the middle part with subplot of an abortive romance between Ozren and a Bosnian classmate, which doesn't really go anywhere.
The director also throws in a few references to the contemporary crumbling of Yugoslavia, but these seem under-developed and end up distracting from the main story. Silvija doesn't care what's going on back there - although she's willing to package and send food to her relatives - she's more intent to ply her trade and make sure that her son has lots of beautiful clothes to wear.
As a whole The Whore's Son comes across as underdeveloped. The story does a respectable job of showing how these refugees who work as hookers, garbage men and pimps, doing their best to survive as outcasts, but the central relationship between Silvija and Ozren is a bit undercooked as though it never really takes off like we expect that it should. In the end, Sturminger's virginal persistence on exhausting the mother-son relationship of all of its potential passion also drains it of significance. Mike Leonard September 06.
Good Performances by Attractive Actors Fail to Breathe Life
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/27/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE WHORE'S SON ('Hurensohn'), based on a novel by Gabriel Loidolt and translated to the screen by Michael Glawogger is an interesting premise for a film - how does a child learn to accept the fact that his mother is a prostitute? The problem with the cinematic translation under Michael Sturminger's direction is that the tale becomes a one-note song. The ingredients seem to be right - gorgeous photography, beautiful actors - but the possibilities are simply never realized.
Covering a period of about fourteen or so years the film introduces Silvija (the very beautiful and fragile appearing Chulpan Khamatova), a Croatian refugee in Germany who throws out her abusive boyfriend who is the father of her infant son Ozren and strikes out on her own. Her only way to make ends meet is through prostitution, and while she adores her son, she by necessity must leave him with his Aunt Ljiljana (Ina Gogalova) while she plies her trade. The film follows the growth of the boy to his early teens when his role is played by the very sensitive, charismatic actor Stanislav Lisnic. Ozren is convinced that his mother is a waitress, until his friends and adults in the neighborhood (including fellow hookers) force him to realize Silvija's true profession. Silvija manages to provide Ozren with the basics of life - clothes, food, shelter, and love - and Ozren responds to her with unconditional love: even when he accepts the fact that Silvija is a prostitute he maintains his adoration (is it beyond that???) for her. There are sidebars that mix Yugoslavian politics with the plight of the immigrants in a foreign adopted land and there is a superficial relationship between Ozren and a classmate that seems to go nowhere. In the end we are essentially where we started: a son loves his mother despite her profession and her personality defects.
The film is a pleasure to view because of the excellent camera work by cinematographer Jürgen Jürges, an apt musical score by Adrian Vonwiller, and actors are all strong, especially Stanislav Lisnic and Chulpan Khamatova. The story outline has potential. It is a shame that potential got lost in the production values. Grady Harp, September 06