3 December 2008 | chaos-rampant
A forgotten little post-apocalyptic gem from Poland
Delving deep into the dusty and long abandonded vaults of b-cinema in search of lost gems always leaves me with a bittersweet taste. On one hand the discovery of unexpected gems where no one would think them possible is a rewarding experience. On the other hand though it makes one wonder how many of these remarkable low-budget oddities, personal love affairs of directors never quite famous and now all but forgotten, have almost forever slipped from memory?
In any case what we have here is a little post-apocalyptic gem from Poland that is really better than it has any right to. The dystopian near future of O-BI, O-BA finds a group of survivors of the nuclear war that ravaged the Earth inhabiting an underworld concrete bunker and biding their time as they wait for the mysterious Ark, an air ship of some kind that will come and save them. The Ark proves to be an elaborate hoax, carefully designed to give hope to the malnourished and desperate denizens of the bunker, while in the meantime the dome that separates their miserable existence from the nuclear winter outside is slowly caving in.
What first striked me about the movie is the design of the bunker and the depiction of the survivors. The survivors are gaunt, filthy and terrible-looking penitents, dressed in rags and aimlessly wandering the neon-lit halls of the bunker like automatons. The bunker is a rundown, seedy place, with bright neon lights peering from all sides like the eyes of malignant beasts.
On one hand it is a slightly 80's depiction of the dystopian future but the movie never stoops down to MAD MAX cheese. Instead it combines biting political satire with the bleak outlook of a world with no future, black comedy with barbs on apathy, religion and power. The survivors, for example, are fed some kind of flour dropping from a tube that hovers in the air - later on we discover the food supervisor uses books and the Bible itself as filler for this meagre meal. There are many such short symbolic touches, perhaps not life-changing or faith-restoring, yet playful, clever and inspired.
One thing is for sure; O-BI, O-BA is not your run-of-the-mill sci-fi schlock. It overcomes its modest budget with creativity and has genuine artistic aspirations both from a writing and directing perspective. My opinion is that it should have been filmed in black and white instead of colour though. The director uses atmospheric light and shadow to great effect and it would have registered even better in stark black and white. The blue-green neon on the other hand outstays its welcome after a while. Just a minor gripe in an otherwise solid b-movie with its heart set in all the right places.
Imagine a less bleak THE ROAD (Cormac McCarthy) being injected with the satire and humour of DR.STRANGELOVE and you're getting there. See it if you can find it.