Review: Obaba (2005)

Obaba (2005)

Directed by: Montxo Armendariz | 106 minutes | drama | Actors: Bárbara Lennie, Juan Diego Botto, Pilar López de Ayala, Peter Lohmeyer, Eduard Fernández, Héctor Colomé, Mercedes Sampietro, Pepa López, Paco Sagárzazu, Ramón Barea, Ryan Cameron, Txema Blasco, Christian Tardío, Lluís, Homar, Juan Sanz Iñake Irastorza, Maiken Beitia, Aitzpea Goenaga, Alejandro Jiménez, Mikel Laskurain, Pablo Manjón, Vanesa Moñino, Juanma Rodríguez, Julia Torres

Every hamlet has its own myths and legends, and the picturesque Pyrenean village of Obaba is no exception. The student Lurdes finds out when she travels to the mountain village for a school assignment in the film ‘Obaba’ and records the stories of its inhabitants. We see in long flashbacks of past events that those stories may not be completely reliable. That the past still stretches its tentacles to the present is one of the lessons Lurdes will learn during her stay in Obaba.

The script of the film named after this village is based on the novel Obabakoak by Bernardo Atxagas. This literary provenance is clearly visible in the pleasantly complex story, the thoughtful characters and the recurring motifs. The slightly magical-realistic tone is also an element that we mainly know from literature, an element that is not always suitable for film adaptation. In any case, the source material ensures that ‘Obaba’ satisfies the mind sufficiently and forms a nice challenge for puzzle lovers.

Unfortunately, this is not enough to make the film a complete success. What ‘Obaba’ lacks a bit is dramatic charge. Every event here receives the same casual treatment, whether it’s a walk in the area or the drowning of a child. That wouldn’t be so bad if ‘Obaba’ didn’t contain dramatic events, but there are plenty of them. Because of this non-commitment, the film never manages to get emotional, and in a production of this length, that’s a real loss.

What also breaks ‘Obaba’ a bit is the lack of depth. The life lessons served here (in the genre ‘True Happiness can only be found in yourself’) are more likely to be expected at Disney than at a Spanish literary film adaptation. Moreover, the symbolism is sometimes too simplistic.

Still, ‘Obaba’ isn’t a failure either. The film has its moments, the acting is excellent, the cinematography is perfectly fine and at the end there is still a nice surprise. It makes this production never unpleasant to watch. But what stays with me most of all is a film that never really breaks loose and that almost succumbs to its own equanimity.

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