The debut feature film from local writer-director Siena Sofia Bergt, Opia is a dark, surreal meditation on guilt and loss that feels like getting sucked into a bad dream and spiraling slowly into nightmare.

Through the lens of Celia (Helana Gabriella), Opia drops the viewer into the unraveling reality of a trauma-stricken college student grappling with the aftermath of a suicide. Bergt's storytelling feels right for the gravity and incomprehensibility of youth suicide; Opia feels deeply personal.

There's no real plot to the film—it's more like an accumulation of fragmented moments: scenes that cut between what appear to be flashbacks, shots that capture the excruciating weirdness of having to deal with the outside world after the death of a loved one and intimate philosophical dialogues about the meaning of life between Celia and her lover/best friend randomly interspersed with what seem like hallucinations. But the identity of the victim doesn't become clear until the end, the clues slowly building suspense as the scenes become more and more chaotic and nightmarish.

Opia abandons traditional narrative structure for the sake of what feels like an authentic portrayal of the way suicide can make the world feel like it's turning inside out and upside down. The cinematography ranges from shaky cam to beautiful artistic imagery and helps draw the viewer into the turmoil of the main character's psyche, but you might find your attention wandering as the suspense gets lost in the artistry of the film. Opia could have easily been shorter and still achieved its goal. The ambiguity of the ending feels like a tease after its long buildup, but then again, suicide always leaves more questions than answers. The film is visually beautiful, emotionally provocative and interesting, if you have the patience to make it all the way through.

+ creative take on a difficult topic
– slow pace and lack of clear plot line makes it hard to pay attention to the end

Directed by Bergt

With Gabriella, Willey
Center for Contemporary Arts, NR, 72 min.