Faithful to the Source Material but Bland as a Feature Film

‘Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman’ Review: Faithful to the Source Material but Bland as a Feature Film

“In my culture, death is not the end”, what better quote is there to describe the death of Biyi Bandele, one of the pioneers of modern cinema in Nollywood? Luckily, we feel his presence once more in his final project, an adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman (Elesin Oba) 

Based on real events, Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman is set in 1940s Oyo Town. It follows the King’s horseman (Odunlade Adekola) who must sacrifice himself after his King’s death, to serve him in the afterlife but sudden distractions lead to unexpected tragedy.

Elesin Oba has everything needed for it to be considered a perfect film, a solid body of work to be adapted, a phenomenally stacked cast, a brilliant director, and one of Nollywood’s biggest production companies. Yet, it fails to live up to expectations. 

Firstly, let’s get into the good parts. The production design and settings of this film are both accurate and beautiful. From the market square to the costume, food, buildings, and even vehicles, it is obvious how much effort went into bringing this world to life, and it is worth it. 

The visuals and cinematography are stunning, it is rare to see a film where each shot feels like a painting and that is something Elesin Oba can boast of. The music is excellently well done and Brymo’s refix of Orun N Moru is a blessing to the ears. The subtitle is another part the film gets right, it was properly done and in perfect sync with the words. 

The cast delivered flawlessly, every scene felt empowering. Odunlade Adekola (King of Thieves) was a powerhouse, he had no issue finding his footing as this is a character he has played multiple times. Shaffy Bello (Chief Daddy) embodied her role perfectly, and it is good to see her in a role that’s different from her regular outing. 

Elesin Oba

The rest of the cast is also good but its hard to shine with a film with those two as its lead. Deyemi Okanlawon (Blood Sisters) was another wonderful cast whose delivery of dialogues was pure. Brymo’s performance felt like a waste of talent as the film could have leaned more into his musical talents for the praise singing, but still, he delivered as best as the situation allowed. 

The praise singers are another set of the cast that gives this film flair, their use of the Yoruba language can be classified as art. The dialogues used in this film are powerful and do the Yoruba culture justice, a direct rendition of the source material, so it is expected. 

Now for the parts of the film that fall flat. The decision to direct this as a stage play and not a feature film could be taken as a creative one, but ultimately is the doom of the project. A good adaptation is meant to take from the source material and add fresh elements to it. Elesin Oba on the other hand is a copy-and-paste. 

This decision resulted in the flawed character development of its characters, especially Elesin, a man who we are meant to believe failed to do his duty due to his lust for enjoyment, but nothing in the film hints at this. Instead, we get a man whose circumstances hindered the fulfillment of his destiny. 

The film’s portrayal of a vital scene in the story, the scene where Elesin was arrested, can be described as lackluster at best. This is a scene that is meant to be the heart of the story, one in which the destiny of every character gets intertwined, but the ball scene gets more attention than it. 

Elesin Oba 2

The film’s portrayal of the doom and disaster that is birthed from Elesin’s failure in his role is another aspect of its failure. We barely get to see any repercussions, instead, everything is rushed. These flaws are a result of the film trying to be a stage play instead of what it should be which is a feature film. 

The use of nudity in the film is irrelevant and adds no value to the story, especially when the wedding night that requires that intimacy, can easily be overlooked. The lighting in the film is another flawed aspect as it becomes hard to differentiate the indoor scenes from the outdoors, and the daytime from nighttime. 

Overall, Elesin Oba has the tendency to soar high but its lack of creativity and originality cuts its flight short. 

Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman Rating: 6/10

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