The Tulafale (The Orator): A Critical Review - Part III
Unfortunately, the speech lacks style, depth, wit and/or other memorable verbiage and elements. It is dull and monotonous - not that all great speeches should be lively unpretentious and incitive. But for Tulafale, there are certain expectations of the speech that are fostered and advanced by the storyline, plot and characterization (re: Saili’s reticence) which the average viewer feels are not met or well delivered.
The speech should be more profound and memorable. It should have a “wow” factor, at least a catchphrase or a deep philosophical quote to make the speech - hence the movie - a lingering treat. Some great movies are remembered and favored because of memorable phrases, and I was looking for that in the speech, something that transcends race, culture and ethnic demographics. For example, Saili could have said something like: “Poto, e laititi lo’u tino, ae tele lo’u fatu.” (“I have a small body but a much bigger heart,”) or other variants such as "Oute pu'upu'u ae umi lo'u fatu, e umi atu nai lo le to'oto'o," ("I may be short, but my heart is tall, taller than this staff"); "E tele atu lo'u fatu nai lo lo'u tino." ("My heart is bigger than my body"). And then find similar memorable expressions for death like "Tatou te ola ina ia tatou oti, tatou te oti foi ina ia tatou toe ola," ("We live to die, but we also die to live again")
Samoan oratory is replete with flowery expressions and Tulafale should take advantage of such a resource for speech embellishment. Saili does flirt with this notion especially in the treatise of his conversance with death, including birds and worms, but a lot of it is banal and forgettable. It does not quite capture the degree of what I would personally call “indelibility through profundity.” Saili's metaphorical request for Vaaiga to be buried between his heart and lungs is too cliched, denying and negating his own mortality.
Death is a universal subject and Samoan oratory contains idioms, expressions, metaphors, etc. which, though local in origin, context and/or source, can still render and delineate universal nuances. As someone who understands the pragmatic role of traditional oratory in Samoan life, I was looking forward to a powerful and silver-tongued lauga as the protagonist’s main weapon in achieving his objective; however, for me, it did not deliver nor impress.
Moreover, I think the character arc should have been actualized and enhanced by some noticeable or even dramatic changes in the protagonist, besides his new chiefly title. He has been mostly reticent - not passively quiet as claimed - throughout the movie, but the climactic events should endow him with aggressiveness, passion, eloquence and wisdom. Saili should also avoid acknowledging his own insecurities - at least to advance the change and growth in the character arc - notably when he said he is ashamed of himself. Instead of being apologetic and rueful, he should be more aggressive, determined, firm and articulate in the latter parts of the movie.
The speech (delivery, intonation, etc.,) should also reflect the change of inner strength and vigor. Even a changed, compelling, persuasive and deeper voice certainly helps. In fact a dramatic transformation in oratorical skills is not farfetched in Samoa where the continuing tofa and moe (dialog and tutoring by the dead, especially past orators) are intrinsic in Samoan beliefs, lore and myths.
All these should serve as the standard and template for the speech unless Saili is cast as a different and rare type of tulafale - soft spoken and softhearted. But that however presents another irony especially when Saili cries during the oration. According to the movie, women do not become orators because they don’t want their breasts exposed; conversely then, men should not be tulafales either if they are crybabies.
So, figuratively speaking, does the umele (back end of the bonito fishing pole) connect well with the futia (receiver /pouch made of sennit) in Tulafale? I’ve made my call; you make yours.
Again the lauga, perhaps the main and critical component and event in Tulafale, falls short of being the fitting complement to the ambitiousness and convoluted sophistication of the movie.
Posted by LV