The footprints of Portuguese Miguel Gomes, as director, co-writer and narrator of Tabu, are everywhere. It is a truly original piece of film making, despite the debt he acknowledges to F.W. Murnau's 1931 silent movie of the same name.
In fact, Miguel reckons Murnau's is a better film. There is lots more in the interview below.
Its short prologue is a strange tale centring on a lone European on safari. A crocodile and a mysterious woman are links to the main story. This ambitious work is refreshingly different. Its cast includes several strong performances. Part 1 (Paradise Lost) is set in Lisbon where Pilar (Teresa Madruga) helps her elderly neighbour Aurora (Laura Soveral). When she finds Aurora's lost lover Ventura (Henrique Espírito Santo), he reveals the secrets of their fatal romance.
Part 2 (Paradise) takes place in colonial Africa. Apparently there was no written script. Gomes chose to shoot on location in Mozambique. Young Ventura (Carloto Cotta) is a cross between Errol Flynn and Rudolph Valentino, with young Aurora (Ana Moreira) a fitting femma fatale. The deft use of silence helps to take this melodrama to another level, especially through its quirky humour.
The dialogue in Part 2 is silent, but other sounds and music are present. The sequences with the band performing are priceless. The film has clean, crisp black and white photography in 1.37:1 aspect ratio, a silent movie format.
Tabu is not an overtly political piece, despite its connections to the Portuguese colonial wars of the 1960s. The audience is left to draw its own conclusions.
Miguel Gomes' movie has all the hallmarks of a cult classic. One for true cinephiles.