WHO THE GODS WANT TO KILL: REVIEWING AFOLAYAN’S FIGURINE
Kunle Afolayan’s Figurine (subtitled: Araromire)seeks to change cinema culture in Nigeria- he wants viewers to think about film not just see it.
Figurine begins with a prologue on goddess, Araromire: For seven years she blesses those who touch her statue with prosperity and fruitfulness; there is rain, plenty of harvest and the people are fruitful. The snag is she withdraws all her blessings, and brings despair and hardship for an additional seven years when the pleasantries are over. Figurine somewhat modifies Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream about Egypt from the bible. Figurine is however not an adaptation of the bible story, it is something sinister…
Sola Fajure (Kunle Afolayan), Femi (Ramsey Nouah) and Mona (Omoni Oboli)are the major characters featured in Figurine. The trio are former University mates caught up in a bizarre love triangle that develops into a grotesque revelation of human behavior. All three are posted to Araromire (a mysterious town named after the goddess) for their National Service. During an endurance trek, Femi and Sola come in contact with some artifacts in a shrine. Unwittingly, they have opened “Pandora’s box” and set in motion a cascade of events. It was the year 2001 and the seven year clock begins to tick…
We are moved in time to 2007; Sola and Mona are married with a son and another baby is on the way. They are rich and happy. Femi is also well off. He has had a very impressive run in his company. His respiratory problems have vanished, his father’s cancer has gone into recession and he doesn’t use his glasses anymore. The three meet again after a seven year separation at a party hosted by Sola and Mona. Femi’s feelings for Mona is evident even after seven years and he seems not to be interested in any other woman, not even the forceful but delectable Ngozi played by Funlola Aofiyebi.
The Yoruba language spoken sometimes in the movie helped create a certain level of realism. The characters spoke Yoruba to themselves in private and reverted to the English language for more formal conversations as regular people would in real life. This level of detail would ensure a wider audience watches Figurine.
The movie shifts to second gear when Mona visits her college history professor where she recognizes a picture of Araromire from a text of the figurine in her husband’s study. The Professor relays to her the myth surrounding the seven years of good and evil. Something doesn’t feel right by her. She starts to worry and then begins to piece information together; the sudden wealth and prosperity in career and family begin to make sense. Mona admits to Femi in a private meeting that she and Sola had lived a charmed life for seven years.
By now, Afolayan knows he has the viewer’s attention. At this stage, because we know the seven years of prosperity are up, we anticipate calamity. We expect equilibrium and normalcy restored. Femi’s charactermakes this possible and sends the movie into third gear. The viewer begins to think… He does not picture murder and obsession in Femi’s personality. He certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a psycho killer who orchestrates a fourteen year plan.
Afolayan doesn’t leave us wondering, he shows us Femi’s motive and intent. Like a good story teller, he shows as well as he tells. The viewer begins to understand (and probably accept) Femi’s actions in reclaiming the love of his life. After all, “all is fair in love and war”.
Figurine ends with the question: what do you believe? The intention is clear though- Afolayan set out to make a mystery movie that engages the viewer.
On one hand, it is said: “who the gods want to kill they first make mad”. So it is possible that Femi was a pawn in the hands of Araromire and therefore we may conclude that Araromire set the tone for the love affair and the convergence at the Youth Camp just to destroy them. On the second hand everything could have happened by sheer coincidence.
Viewers of Figurine: Araromire will leave the cinema neither happy nor sad. They will ask themselves questions, thus fulfilling what Afolayan set out to do: make us think.