With the recent premiere of Kunle Afolayan’s “The CEO”, Adedayo Adejobiexplores the movie’s structures and contexts
Good films they say are treasures that collectively serve as a dictionary for one’s life. For this reason and more, the human mind is naturally careful about the kind of films it consumes. Therefore, uncommon films make up the ideal filmmaker’s dictionary.
Two years ago, Kunle Afolayan’s “October 1” movie was embraced and celebrated by critics and fans alike. The Nigerian viewing audience was overjoyed to see something “new, fresh and authentic.”
This year, I went through my film library, brought out and watched again an old film. It was then that it dawned on me that Kunle Afolayan and his widely celebrated script writer, Tunde Babalola, are not exactly who they claim to be.
Have you heard of or seen “Perfume: Story of a Murderer”? This is the soul, thrust and impulse behind “October 1.” Without the movie there wouldn’t, most likely, have been any “October 1.” In fact, some of the directing techniques, use of lighting, and cinematographic styles of Afolayan’s movie stemmed from “Perfume”, a 2006 movie. It appeared the latter was copied from the former.
For the purpose of driving home the point, reviewing in brief, – Perfume: Story of a Murderer as Directed by Tom Tykwer and co- written by Tom Tykwer, Bernd Eichinger, Andrew Birkin and Caroline Thompson – is a drama, mystery and suspense-filled and terrifying story of murder and obsession set in 18th-Century France.
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille has a unique talent for discerning the scents and smells that swirl around him, which he uses to create the world’s finest perfumes. Strangely lacking any scent of his own, he becomes obsessed with capturing the irresistible but elusive aroma of young womanhood. As Grenouille’s obsession turns deadly, 12 young girls are found murdered. Panic breaks out as people rush to protect their daughters, while an unrepentant and unrelenting Grenouille still lacks the final ingredient to complete his quest.
Not only does “Perfume” seem impossible to film, it must have been almost impossible for Patrick Suskind to write. How do you describe the ineffable enigma of a scent in words, or Sean Barrett, who snuffles and sniffles his way to greatness and you almost believe he is inhaling bliss, or the essence of a stone?
The movie tells the tale of Grenouille who grows up as a tanner, voluptuously inhaling the world’s smells, and eventually talks himself into an apprenticeship with Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), a master perfumer, now past his prime, whose shop is on an overcrowded medieval bridge on the Seine. Mention of the bridge evokes the genius with which director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) evokes a medieval world of gross vices, all-pervading stinks and crude appetites. In this world, perfume is like the passage of an angel some people think, literally. Grenouille effortlessly invents perfect perfumes, but his ambition runs deeper; he wants to distill the essence of copper, stone and beauty itself. In pursuit of this last ideal, he becomes a gruesome murderer.
“Perfume” begins in the stink of the gutter and remains dark and brooding. To rob a person of his scent is cruel enough, but the way it is done in this story is truly macabre. Still it can be said that Grenouille is driven by the conditions of his life and the nature of his spirit. Also, of course, that he may indeed be the devil’s spawn. This is a dark film, focused on an obsession so complete and lonely it shuts out all other human experience. You may not savour it, but you will not stop watching it, in horror and fascination.
There is nothing fun about the story, except the way it ventures so fearlessly down one limited, terrifying, seductive dead end, and finds there a solution both sublime and horrifying. It took imagination to tell it, courage to film it, thought to act it, and from the audience it requires a brave curiosity about the peculiarity of obsession.
One would assume and expect, like the writer, they would instinctively possess strong appetites for uncommon films, but it seems the duo have learned, understood and have mastered the art and business of creatively stealing souls of some of our treasured films. Film critics, who place value on authenticity and creativity at its best, articulate that is not all.
Another trailer of Kunle Afolayan’s new film, “The CEO”, which is being premiered in Nigerian cinemas tomorrow, plays to the writer and other observant minds, like the German film, “Exam” which was released in 2009.
From a business perspective, it may not be best fitting to assert that Kunle Afolayan copied those two films, “Perfume…” and “Exam,” words for words, actions for actions, props for props, and sets for sets.
But, without sounding hard, wicked nor mean-spirited and no pun intended, Kunle Afolayan no doubt did a remarkable job of establishing that he took the souls of those movies and hypocritically dressed them in Nigerian robes.
Reviewing “Exam”, a German film released in 2009, directed by Stuart Hazeldine and written by Stuart Hazeldine, Simon Garrity with a rather simple plot, eight talented candidates have reached the final stage of selection to join the ranks of a mysterious and powerful corporation.
Entering a windowless room, an Invigilator gives them eighty minutes to answer one simple question. He outlines three rules they must obey or be disqualified: don’t talk to him or the armed guard by the door, don’t spoil their papers and don’t leave the room. He starts the clock and leaves. The candidates turn over their question papers, only to find they are completely blank. After the initial confusion has subsided, one frustrated candidate writes ‘I believe I deserve…,’ and is promptly ejected for spoiling.
The remaining candidates soon figure out they are permitted to talk to each other, and they agree to cooperate in order to figure out the question: then they can compete to answer it. At first they suspect the question may be hidden in their papers like a security marker in a credit card, and they figure out ways to change their environment to expose the hidden words. But light, liquids and other plans all come to naught. Soon enough, the candidates begin to uncover each other’s background, prejudices and hidden agendas.
Tensions rise as the clock steadily descends towards zero, and each candidate must decide how far they are willing to go to secure the ultimate job.
Exam which has gained a lot of steam is not an entirely new movie for those who have seen Cube and Fermat’s Room, but it is one of those few movies that really strike a responsive chord with the writer. I like watching movies where you are one of the cast members trying to find the answer. The writer thinks that a lot of people are like that as well, and if you are one of the people who are like that, I am very curious to see what you think of Exam. It comes highly recommended by me.
It’s a situation movie, meaning the camera stays in one room for the majority of the movie; not only does this create a need for great writing, it also allows an independent movie maker to keep the budget low without compromising the quality of the film.
One hopes the next treasured movie soul Kunle Afolayan and Tunde Babalola would be copying won’t be “The Shawshank Redemption,” a 1995 movie that may make one taste salty tears from one’s eyes.
Lest I forget, “Exam” didn’t make it into my dictionary. Its intrigues eventually became too pedestrian. So, what could have excited Kunle and his scriptwriter to also copy the soul of “Exam” for creating “The CEO”?
Words on the street have it that he is a down low, with different tales behind it. Like his plagiarized October 1, he was sexually violated by a close relative as a growing up child in his father’s house. And another says that he picked it up as a survival racket in the US. Whatever he does in the closet does not really call for scrutiny but his works could do with a little depth and originality.
But why would the ilk of Afolayan go to the bank to borrow N50 million to fund a story that was largely a copycat and turned it into his own movie? The inquiry into Afolayan’s two recently most viewed and acclaimed movies raise questions as to the dearth of creative talents in Nigeria.
Most crucial is the question – are there no creative minds, storytellers in Nigeria again? If there are, how come foreign story lines are copied instead of telling the African or Nigerian stories? Are they saying the African, Nigerian narrative can never be authentic and creative? Must Nigerians be confined to the whims and caprices of how the western world thinks of the black race? If not, the ilk of Kunle Afolayan need to rethink their trade.