THISDAY - - ARTS & REVIEW - Yinka Olatun­bo­sun

Trino Mo­tion Pic­tures re­cently screened the 104- minute psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller Sylvia at the Sil­ver­bird Cin­e­mas in La­gos for a se­lect au­di­ence con­sist­ing of movie crit­ics and journalists. It was the press pre­miere of the movie, sched­uled to hit the cin­e­mas on Fri­day, Septem­ber 21. With Ba­batunwa Aderi­nokun as the di­rec­tor, it came as no sur­prise to watch an­other min­i­mal­ist in­ter­pre­ta­tion of re­al­ity jux­ta­posed with fan­tasy. Trino Stu­dios has a his­tory of movie pro­duc­tions with a hand­ful of ac­tors and heavy tech­ni­cal de­tails. A quick ex­am­ple is the short film The En­counter set against the Nige­rian Civil War in 1967.

Di­rected by Daniel Ori­ahi, the open­ing scene in Sylvia is a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion with a col­lec­tive of ec­cen­tric in­di­vid­u­als mostly treated as worth­less en­ti­ties. Typ­i­cally, the res­i­dent nurse walks through the aisle, dis­tribut­ing med­i­ca­tions to pa­tients, non­cha­lant un­til she finds Richard Okezie ( Chris At­toh) writ­ing a lit­er­ary piece in sheets of pa­per. The con­ver­sa­tion that en­sues be­tween Richard and the in­quis­i­tive nurse leads to a se­ries of dra­matic episodes de­tail­ing ro­mance, fan­tasy, love, ob­ses­sion, crime and re­venge.

The plot de­vel­ops around Richard, a young promis­ing ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive, whose suc­cess story through school and ca­reer owes much to a fe­male child­hood friend, Sylvia who ex­ists only in his dream. The story takes a phan­tas­magoric turn when Richard falls in love with Gbemi ( Ini Dima Oko­jie) at first sight and sub­se­quently, he ca­su­ally dis­misses his re­la­tion­ship with Sylvia ( Zainab Ba­lo­gun). Ap­par­ently, Richard thinks break­ing up is a walk in the park but Sylvia demon­strates to him that it is a road to hell, un­leash­ing vengeance of un­told di­men­sion.

Writ­ten by Vanessa Kanu, Sylvia is a care­ful ex­posé on the African mythol­ogy about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the spir­i­tual and the ma­te­rial world, if per­ceived through the cul­tural lens. The screen­writer draws upon the age- long be­lief in the ex­is­tence of char­ac­ters in the spir­i­tual world, whose ac­tions can im­pact on the re­al­ity of their hu­man host. The sto­ry­telling de­vi­ates from the usual nar­ra­tive pat­tern in Nol­ly­wood movies wherein the pro­tag­o­nist en­coun­ters a spir­i­tual prob­lem and seeks spir­i­tual- help end of story.

Sylvia is open- ended, sub­ject to nu­mer­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions. If ex­am­ined from a sci­en­tific point of view, Sylvia qual­i­fies as a psycho- drama with its roots in men­tal health. For in­stance, a viewer can ar­gue that Richard didn’t seek pro­fes­sional help when his mon­ster girl­friend in­trudes his real world. Bear­ing the bur­den of se­crecy alone must have ac­counted for his ma­jor men­tal break­down and vi­o­lent be­hav­iour dur­ing a ma­jor pitch pre­sen­ta­tion for a cov­eted brand at his of­fice. Sylvia can also be seen as crime story with the con­spir­acy twist that the vil­lain brings to the grue­some mur­ders that she sin­gle- hand­edly or­ches­trates. The story’s strength lies in its un­pre­dictabil­ity while its weak­ness arises from the lack­lus­tre di­a­logue and ver­bal pac­ing.

Co- pro­duced by Uche Okocha, Sylvia in the movie rep­re­sents a bit­ter lover, rudely in­trud­ing the world of her ex- lover and his wife in an at­tempt to ex­er­cise moral jus­tice but fail­ing to earn the viewer’s sym­pa­thy. Our world is full of many Sylvias, that is women who can’t ac­cept that their roles in a man’s life are time- bound. Like Sylvia, they cam­ou­flage, tor­ture and ob­sess over a man they can­not have.

The in­ter­ro­ga­tion scene down­plays on the use of di­a­logue as the di­rec­tor, who is highly in­flu­enced by Euro­pean cin­ema and the cam­era sto­ry­telling tech­nique places em­pha­sis on ac­tors’ fa­cial ex­pres­sions, de­meanour which give a good pace to the drama. The ro­man­tic scenes could have been tight­ened if they were not so pro­longed, per­haps to sat­isfy au­di­ence who en­joy such amorous views.

Sylvia movie is worth any­one’s time with its qual­ity pic­tures, ex­cel­lent sound matched with orig­i­nal sound­track ex­e­cuted by Michael Ogun­lade.

A scene from the movie

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