Adapting literary works has never been easy. Many filmmakers have failed to project the message that writers pass across in books.
The Late Biyi Bandele was one who made the bold decision to tread the path less travelled. One thing the award-winning writer and filmmaker must have hand in mind is; I will either fail or succeed.
Elesin Oba: The King's Horseman is a screen adaptation of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's play Death and the King's Horseman.
Penned during the colonial era, the book vividly captures the conflict between the colonial masters and the natives they governed.
It was a play that spoke to the hearts of lovers of such works which highlighted the futility of the white man trying to understand the customs and traditions of a most remarkable tribe.
Bandele wrote the screenplay of this screen adaptation and it shows his ingenuity; the dialogue is rich, elevated, poetic and infused with amazing parables and metaphors.
As for the plot, those who have read the source material know how it starts and ends and this is where it becomes challenging for a director who has to make it engaging to those familiar with the work.
The good thing about Elesin Oba is that it boasts a robust cast that makes every scene worth watching.
In the lead role is the imposing Odunlade Adekola, a thespian who knows how to embody a man of desires whose failure to do his duty leads to an unthinkable tragedy.
The Nollywood star seems comfortable in the skin of the titular character, giving a nuanced performance. My only issue with him is that obviously fake and ridiculous beard.
I almost failed to recognise popular singer Brymo when he was first shown on screen. As one of Nigeria's finest musicians, he has never failed to impress fans. As an actor, he didn't fail to impress me.
As the son of the protagonist, actor Deyemi Okanlawon leaves nothing to be desired in his portrayal of the film's most complex character.
Despite having limited screen time, Okanlawon's Olunde's arresting presence leaves a lasting impression that reverberates for the film's entirety.
For me, the star who eclipses everyone else with some really fine acting is Shafy Bello.
Playing the role of the influential and powerful Iyaloja like she was born for the part, Bello makes you relish and savour every word that comes out of her mouth.
Her charisma is unquestionable and the way she reprimands the Horseman in the third act left me in awe of the character.
All the above are pointers that Elesin Oba nails it when it comes to the acting. From the beginning, the viewer is vested in the plot, seduced by the colourful scenery and beautiful cinematography.
However, the film's anti-climatic final act proves to be the cog in the wheel, failing to produce the gravitas that should have made the conclusion momentous.
In terms of exploring the theme of colonialism, Elesin Oba hits the nail on the head. Thanks to Bandele's ability to defuse a tense atmosphere with the occasional humour, the rather dark tone is made light at intervals.
One of the ways I feel this film would have gone would have been a little bit of character exploration vis a vis more backstories.
The conflict between Elesin and the white district officer was not well developed. In the play, that was not really needed since a casual mention and a reference here and there were enough. But on the big screen, you need to go beyond that.
The district officer is obviously the Yang to Elesin's Yin. The former is that antagonist that the film never fleshes out. It just sets him up to be the medium through which the main character meets his tragic end.
Another plot point that should have been explored is Olunde's journey from a nervous village boy living in the shadow of his father to an educated man who rebels against the institution that tries to pit him against his culture.
The above would have given the character more screen, allowing Okanlawon to shine even more than he does.
Bandele's adaptation is a commendable effort because not many filmmakers would have pulled off such an impressive but slightly flawed movie.
In the end, Elesin Oba's shortcomings do not measure up to its triumphs. While it isn't Oscar-worthy, it does leave a lasting impression.