Today: June 21, 2024


The Oxford English Dictionary defines the work overlooked as; to ignore or disregard, or to pass over in favour of another.

Oxford English Dictionary defines the work overlooked as; to ignore or
disregard, or to pass over in favour of another.

This happens quite regularly in life. And sometimes this can happen to
extremely good movies. The likes of Vanilla Sky, Fear And Loathing In Las
and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me can all lay claim to being
overlooked by the critics and mainstream audiences. Unfortunately for Miguel Gomes his rather brilliant Tabu
is likely to be considered one of those movies in the near future. Yet he
has nothing to be embarrassed about. Out of all the films released last year,
Tabu is the one guaranteed to put a smile on anybodies face.

Told in two differing parts Tabu tells the story of Aurora.
When we first meet her, around the end of 2010, she is a delusional and senile
old woman. Seemingly her only friends are her neighbour Pilar and maid Santa.
Yet even their patience is constantly tested by Aurora’s incessant
ramblings. Curiously this section of the film seems to be more about Pilar than
Aurora. She is a dedicated catholic, who participates in protests against the
UN and is generally a lady of culture. Although stoic in her output she seems
preoccupied by Auroras condition. Perhaps she sympathises with the loneliness that
exists within Auroras life and fears the same conclusion happening in hers.
After she suffers a stroke, Aurora begins to talk about a place in Africa and
wishes to see a man called Gianluca Ventura. Having never
mentioned Gianluca before, Pilar and Santa become suspicious of this mans
importance. Sadly Aurora passes away before Pilar is able to locate Gianluca.
Yet this isn’t the end of Aurora’s story as Gianluca begins to reveal the wild
secrets about her past.

At this point the film takes dramatically different
turn and morphs into a beautiful silent movie. Gianluca narrates this section
of the film as he recounts his early life where he had an affair with Aurora.
Living on a farm at the foot of Mount Tabu, Aurora was married to a rich businessman
and she herself was a successful hunter. Never missing a shot, her status was
legendary and with her husband they managed to maintain a stable life on the
African continent. Even to the point where they owned a pet crocodile. By
happenstance Gianluca comes to find himself working in Africa and living near
to Aurora and her husband. Whilst her husband is away on a long business trip,
Gianluca and Aurora fall for each other and begin a steamy, passionate romance.

The contrast between this section of the film and the
former is so vast you could be fooled into thinking you were watching two
separate films. To an extent you are, as the emotion of both sections is
completely opposing. The start is a fairly glum ordeal, looking at the effects
of gambling, religion and old age on the human psyche. It plays out like an
ordinary European art house movie that looks very nice, yet barely anything
happens. The latter though is a simply joyous affair. Full of eccentricities and
comedy. Any seasoned cinemagoer would fall head over heels in love with Tabu’s
second installment. Its musical interludes and gentle innocence provide the
film with a real charm that is just wonderful to watch.

Gomes has made an obvious homage to FW Murnau’s
and the film of the same name; Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, yet
there are also telling nods to Benjamin Christensen and Sidney
Whilst cinephiles will undoubtedly adore this film, more casual
viewers will also find much to enjoy. The natural drama of the piece is utterly
compelling as are the performances, particularly those of both women who play
Aurora (Laura Soveral and Ana Moreira).

Despite it’s critical acclaim, Tabu failed to grasp
the attention during its cinema run. When you consider the success of films
like The Artist and Hugo, which also owed an incredible debt to
silent cinema, it seems odd that Tabu would fail so drastically. Yet, it did.
Tabu is a rare thing in cinema. A black and white, silent, European art house
film, that is thoughtful and well served in its judgment of topics.
Additionally, whilst doing all those things in an acute way, it manages to be
positively uplifting and marvelous. Tabu deserves to be seen by more and
hopefully over time more will come to discover its treasures.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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