The second half particularly shares an important number of silent cinema traits, from the filming style to the reactions and physiognomy of the characters, which irremediably forces us to think about Murnau's legendary art pieces. With a great score and soundtrack and an expert cinematography, we are taken to two different worlds, not only separated by distance but also by time, inviting us to share the feelings evoked by the distant images and the voiceover guiding us to build an own judgment.
I am a sucker for this kind of dramas which places two white (most of the times wealthy) characters that are in love with each other put against the backdrop of a distant native territory while facing their own romantic impulses. Yet, Gomes allows the story to flow smoothly and takes the appearance of a humble love letter rather than a Hollywood melodrama, therefore surpassing any of the prolonged epic romances that Meryl Streep had during the 80s and 90s, including Africa.
Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, Tabu revives your classic story set in foreign lands as a tribute to the work of an old German master through what has been mentioned above: visual poetry and lyricism. For some odd reason, this feels much more like the product of Latin America during the 60s.
How to say ... two stories? Or a monumentally long prelude before the story? Regardless of perspective, I think there's good reason for us to dwell so much time in the quotidian of three ladies, to know Aurora. To know one of the links that connect the two halves of the narrative (or anti-narrative), this senile and insecure woman, prone to fits of delirium and eccentricity who has, as a vestige of past times, a black maid, Santa, that somehow manages to put up with Aurora. Maybe Santa puts up with Aurora because she feels for her a much higher degree of compassion than we do. But old age eventually reclaims Aurora's life, and so appears Gian-Luca Ventura, the other link, to chronicle the Paradise. The memoir of a sad love story, visceral, reckless and adventurous love between Aurora and Ventura held decades ago in the bleak landscape of a former Portuguese colony in Africa. A love story that, by its sheer turmoil, had the unfortunate consequence of triggering the Portuguese Colonial War. Paradise lends another depth and color to Aurora's character and, in the end, it's impossible not to have the slightest compassion for her.
The slowness and monotony of the first half might discourage the least patient, but it pays off to endure to the end with "Tabu". Miguel Gomes, Portuguese filmmaker, forged a movie gifted with cinematic beauty as ravishing as the love story itself, the clean, modern and direct nature of Paradise Lost contrasts with the dreamlike and nostalgic enchantment of Paradise, as if those were two completely different worlds (or films). The reward is immense both for the strokes of cinematic genius revealed by Miguel Gomes and for the feeling of having contemplated, over a lifetime, the memory or dream of someone. Amidst all this, the significance of Pilar's role, the other main character of Paradise Lost, becomes incognito to me. The prominent attention given to her persona seems inconsequent, all in all, she is little more than a spectator, just like us ... maybe the director actually wanted to allude us through Pilar, an intriguing reading which boosts even more my impetus to re-watch this film. This is a singular work in the context of Contemporary Cinema which pays tribute to the old B&W Classic Cinema. Wonderful art house film, highly recommended!