Every so often a film comes along that recharges your love of cinema. Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is just that gem: a film of such artistry and daring that you’ll be left dazzled by the possibilities of the medium.
Mind you, like any worthwhile love, it doesn’t come easily. Audiences will have to reckon with a two-part, black-and-white tale of contemporary Lisbon and colonial Africa; with the latter half delivered entirely dialogue-free. Instead it is recounted using in voiceover and ambient sound.
With that fair warning, however, you can be swept up in a tale of forbidden romance set at the foothills of Mount Tabu. The fate of the young lovers is set against the opening portrait of a dotty old woman Aurora (Laura Soveral), to whom we are introduced by her caring neighbour Pilar (Teresa Madruga).
Sharing its main and subtitles with F. W. Murnau’s 1931 film, this opening ‘Paradise Lost’ gives way to the ‘Paradise’ of Aurora’s youth as an heiress on an African farm. Glossing over the political and moral mire of colonialism, Tabu revels instead in the onscreen ardour and sensory playfulness of a dialogue-free tableau. Alongside Oscar winner The Artist, Tabu is a stylish and romantic trip back into the silent era.
4 1/2 stars
Published in the May 2013 issue of Limelight Magazine
Australian release date: 16 May 2013