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The OA (2016)

The One Thousand And Five Nights Or So

There are three ways to watch The OA. The first is to dismiss it after a couple of episodes due to its slow pace, obfuscating plot and its deliberate imbrication of stories within stories. The second is to be taken by its “Stranger Things for adults” atmosphere and let yourself go captive of its 1001 nights structure, listening to its Sheherazade and hoping the tale will never end.

The third starts like the second, until the 40′ mark or so of Episode 5, when like one you are snapped away from ensuavement by a Pina Baush dance routine which might or might not open a door to another dimension. This is the point when you cover your mouth with your hand and lament “Oh no, Brad Pitt, please no!”. For Mr Pitt has produced the Brit Marlin’s debut as a writer, and she’s an actress with an obvious dancing background. And if there is a line to be drawn somewhere, this line clearly separates supernatural fiction from interpretative dance, or interpretative dance from anything else, really. Some hazardous stuff just requires tight containment.

What happened in the mind of people writing such a script is pretty clear. It is a pretty smart Stephen King rip-off, including the shocking finale which elegantly but ludicrously wraps up the whole affair. What happened in the mind of the rather talented actors who contributed, and whose shoulders bravely carry the crashing weight of said script, is pretty clear too, as most of them are given a bravoury turn. What happened in the mind of whoever directed the eight episode is clearly onscreen, with some very good visual ideas and some flair for human interaction. What happened in the mind of whoever supported Mr Pitt in this endeavour is beyond one.

Spoiler alert: near the end of the series, Prairie (yes, that’s her name), a beatific expression on her face, reveals to her adoptive mother that she’s “the original angel” and her mother slaps her in the face, hard. It is as hard not to “Yeah!” to the screen, the character, and Alice Krige in general, who does a splendid job pretending to care for the pain in the neck that is Prairie for seven episodes in a row. Really, that thing is dumbfounding. Once again, whoever thought it was a good idea to mix Mr King’s trademark convergence of misfits in search of a greater good with Usual Suspects, then sprinkle the result with interpretative dance for dramatic and resurrectional effect is beyond therapy: the result is a chimera which obviously thinks quite highly of itself and a terminal case of ridicule.

One honestly doesn’t know if the series is worth following to witness the moment when the wheels come off the wagon in such a spectacular fashion or if staying away from it is a better option. For this memorable brand of indecision, The OA is indeed worth of a review, but you’d better go for it after yoga and a gluten-free meal, with your chakras wide open and ready to let yourself go in a trance. Then you will enjoy shaking your arms, hissing in unison and swallowing your hand and, oh. Some things just can’t be unseen.

In retrospect, there might be a simple explaination for the whole thing:

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