Fisayo Osilaja’s short film “Rouge” is entirely distinguished by its poetry. With clear crisp delivery, the kind that you only hear in the best of short films, Osilaja’s narrator Jzov Najea voice is like a lighthouse on the shore of treacherous waters, focused, singular, projecting calm and guiding you through the metaphoric images through which Osilaja tries to weave her story of heart break. It is her voice that I keep coming back to the entire six minutes run of the film, her voice that stays in my head long after the images of a blond haired silent protagonist Rouge (played by Riauna Nevels) and her room of balloons have faded from memory. It shows with quiet confidence that voice over narrations aren’t always bad.
Spawned by a true story, Osilaja’s Rouge, follows two main characters, Rouge and Bleu (pardonnez moi) and their intense but somewhat volatile love affair. Using lighting, a lo-fi film filters and different coloured balloons, Bleu and Rouge meet and fall in love, and settle into the rhythm of a relationship. Then discord sets in, creating a rift between them and widening it till Bleu is gone and Rouge is left with a metaphor sliver of him. Rouge has to let him go to truly find herself.
The film’s preoccupation with metaphorical representation is its most intriguing feature but also its biggest handicap. The film’s leads phone in their performances, never showing any real immersion in their characters, that flicker of emotion that is the shift between acting and being. There’s always a metaphor to substitute for any proper portrayal of emotion, and the actors spend the entire film in a pantomime of what the trajectory of a relationship should look like. That in itself becomes a metaphor for the film where perhaps the subject is too painful or personal for the filmmaker that she never really engages it with unabashed honesty, and instead substitutes symbolism for candor.
Rouge is a fascinating first film, but Osilaja is not there yet as a filmmaker.
Watch Rouge here.