Tautoga Gausia - Faamagaloga (Part II) Review
Before I proceed, I want to make one thing clear - and in categorical fashion too - that notwithstanding my reviews, Tautoga Gausia’s nascent milestone within Samoa's film-making history is unmatched, archetypal and will certainly prevail.
But critical reviews are also part of such a milestone and accomplishment - or any movie or work of art for that matter. So I hope you read and peruse my comments in their proper context and light.
With the release of Faamagaloga - Part II, the truth is now revealed that Sam did not commit suicide, contrary to most people’s prognostication - including mine. And the makers of Tautoga Gausia are apparently elated, absolved and exonerated while at the same time proving their critics wrong.
However, though these filmmakers have succeeded in that particular aspect, the decision - planned or extraneous - to circumvent and elude the suicide issue altogether, has caused some obvious setbacks to the overall movie, especially from the technical and artistic guidelines of typical and genuine movie making. The general enthusiasm of the viewers also suffers. Most say that Faamagaloga is boring, and I agree, though it’s more than just boring. Faamagaloga has some flaws and weaknesses hence contributing to Tautoga Gausia’s overall regression and mediocrity. To some Tautoga is a disappointment. Therefore, all things considered, Faamagaloga is anticlimactic and is subsequently dull, boring and lethargic.
No conflict, no story ...no good movie
If there’s a single principle that underlies the making of good and great movies, it is the critical role of conflict and tension. It is the conflict that holds any movie together and keeps the audience charmed and transfixed. The makers of Tautoga Gausia said that the movie is based on a true story, but a true story does not always make a good movie, especially without conflict which has to be present, and if not, the filmmakers have to write the story in such a way that conflict is added to the script. Tautoga certainly has conflicts - notably in Part I. Unfortunately, the conflict - involving Sam's death - that brings about the ifoga (apology) is non-dramatic, minor and mostly incidental. As a result the ifoga is more illustrative and demonstrative than didactic and comprehensive.
Part I, despite its obvious rudiments, still is able to maintain conflict especially among the principal characters. The contentious relationship between Filemoni and Sam drives Part I even to its climactic and suspenseful ending. But Part I’s excitement and drama also contribute to Part II’s lacklusterness and mediocrity. Tautoga Gausia is like a movie of a seafaring journey of 200 miles where everything - a violent storm, mutiny, a hole on the side of the ship, a broken mast, etc. - happens during the first half. During the last half, everything is back to normal but monotonous and the characters just sit around, drink and talk about their prior misfortunes. In other words, the structure of Tautoga Gausia collapses from trying to explain and resolve an unexciting event of Sam’s death. The denouement takes up the whole of Part II which goes to prove inept storyboard planning on the part of the filmmakers.
The lack of dramatic elements and sustained conflict are also created by Sam’s death which, again, is more accidental and incidental than dramatic. So in Part II, the failure of the filmmakers to maintain, or at least spawn new sustained conflict contributes to the regression of the movie. If anything, you don’t kill, or let the principal character die in medias res. Otherwise it’s downhill from that point on - which is exactly how it is in Part II. You can’t do much to the story - especially another full movie’s length - without the main character and backbone of the story. Much will, and can only be told through a backstory and/or flashback but again, if the end has been given away - that the "protagonist" dies - then the backstory better be creative and dramatic and/or passionate to justify the untimely death of the protagonist. As I mentioned before, a martyrdom is usually an option in such a case and concept.
Personally therefore, Tautoga Gausia should have stayed with the suicide message. The movie should, at the very least, try not to depart altogether and completely from suicidal overtones and implications of Part I. Though the filmmakers deny and insist that the movie has nothing to do with suicide, all intimations and technical elements of Part I suggest otherwise. Suicide is definitely the predictable upshot based on the drama, the plot, the storyline, the symbolism and allusions of Part I. And the heated and violent confrontations between Sam and Filemoni which eventually lead Sam to push the canoe out to sea have deciding predictability of suicide - or at least suicidal impulses.
The ongoing hostility between father and son and their disaffection and resentment for each other, develops and advances to a climactic point in Sam’s death. But the fact that Sam’s death was a result of his own eventual misfortunes not only exonerate Filemoni but also contribute to the anti-climatic lineament of Part II. The shift also shrinks and kills the tension that all the drama in Part I helps build.
Now if the intimations and predictability of suicide need to be outdone by the surprise and secret of the real cause of Sam’s death, then the surprise should raise the ante tenfold and in much more dramatic fashion for the audience to remain interested and captivated. Unfortunately, the most critical and anticipated riddle (cause Sam’s death) in the movie turns out to be more isolated and effectively independent of the rest of the story. The shift, if not a tweak, in the storyline places Part II at variance with Part I and the entire Tautoga Gausia. Part I is essentially a round hole and Part II is a square post. The dovetailing is lousy at best and ineffective at worst. And though Part II is true to its own message of forgiveness, mostly through the gestures and expressions of penitence - albeit ostensibly vacuous - the same trivialities make Faamagaloga - Part II tediously repetitious, monotonous and humdrum.
Posted by LV