QCinema 2018 review: Oda Sa Wala

Nov 2, 2018
oda sa wala dwein baltazar

(This is the final part of our QCinema International Film Festival 2018 coverage. Click here for the first part, and here for the second. There are over 40 films featured on this year's edition. Let's talk about Dwein Baltazar's 'Oda Sa Wala.')

READ: Everything you need to know about QCinema International Film Festival 2018

Dwein Baltazar’s 'Oda Sa Wala' is a film whose strengths work on restraints. Characters are more mostly shown expressing internally, and scenes are dictated by silence, rather than the other way around. I can’t help but recall Obeng, a character in Baltazar’s previous film ‘Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus.’ Obeng (played by Anthony Falcon) is a snatcher, who materializes his desire for a woman named Aileen by stealing items away from her. We will then follow Obeng as he picks up a mannequin, which will be used as his way to create a visual representation of this woman, assembled with Aileen’s personal jewelry. In the end, he gets to interact with the real manifestation of Aileen. No words are spoken, just confessions of intimacy. 

oda sa wala dwein baltazar

Obeng, like the lead character in ‘Oda,’ Sonya (Marietta Subong), is someone who is yearning for that expression to confess. They are both fragmented in their own way. The outcasts of their circle. The only difference is Sonya will most likely be trapped on this tragedy alone, or is it?

'Oda Sa Wala' opened with Sonya listening to “Mo Li Hua,” a Chinese song about a woman reluctantly trying to pluck a flower from its stem. The scenes that introduced her are of the mundane. She would do rotational house activities, from cleaning the house, staring at people outside, taking care of her father (Joonee Gamboa) and overseeing her funeral parlor business. For her, the funeral business fits her black-and-white personality, her dead clients mirroring their seemingly defunct lifestyle. Things will change when, in the middle of the night, an unknown corpse was delivered on their property. It will not be long before Sonya notices that this corpse will produce more customers in their business, as well as more interactions with people from her outside circle. And with this luck, it would not be long before Sonya found a new friend out of the dead.

oda sa wala dwein baltazar

There are noticeable changes. Sonya talks to her father after a long period of silence. She strays away from monochrome clothes by using colorful ones. She dances to “Mo Li Hua.” For the first time, the woman who is hesitant to pluck the flower was able to successfully pick it. 

oda sa wala dwein baltazar

The film’s attempt on the exodus to the humdrum is examined with the use of magical realism. Sonya’s life has been affixed to the concept of luck, as seen through her large collection of fortune-bearing figurines. We could consider the “magic corpse” as the most effective of them all. The treatment is put to best application when the concept decays into an ambiguous line between magic and reality. This has always been about the fragility of life, after all.

Like Sonya’s dead companion, the house decays along with the very essence of their own lives. When the impression of luck fades away, furniture will strip down their rooms into just the basic necessities, and the dead being dead as the only constant in their residence.

oda sa wala dwein baltazar

'Oda Sa Wala’ heightens the theme of isolation in Dwein Baltazar’s filmography as a director. Characters are often framed within spaces of a door, window, or a jeepney filled with careless passengers. However, towards the end of this film, we will realize that even for a brief period, does she redeems Sonya out of her loneliness. If so, can we read the film as a story of friendship? A story of unrequited relationships? I’ll have to think that it works the best if it’s intentionally leaning on the latter. 

oda sa wala dwein baltazar

All in all, this is a great achievement in our local cinema. And it just works on the merits of utilizing the most out of cinema as a language rather than a mere medium for storytelling. We deserve films of this calibre. We deserve interesting narrators like Baltazar who are committed to contributing to the growing discourse of the Philippines in the global cinema market. Who wouldn’t be excited for what’s to come in the future after this? 

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