Film Reviews, Short Review

Tabu (2012)


A film of two-and-a-bit halves: the first a relatively straight drama about an ailing, senile, old lady, Aurora (Laura Soveral), her housemaid (Isabel Cardoso), and her next-door neighbour (Teresa Madruga), the second told in flashback by an old lover of hers, the story of their time together in rural colonial Portuguese Africa. The first section is fine enough, an interesting, if relatively static story about aging in modern Lisbon. The second half however, is simply one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and challenging pieces of pure cinema I have seen in recent years. Told purely in voiceover narration, with no diegetic dialogue, it plays like an old Hollywood silent film. Yet its setting in colonial Africa, and the implicitly subjective tone of the narration warrants constant questioning of the motives and behaviour of the characters: are they genuinely in love, or are they just experiencing the same kind of adventure that the movies beg us to experience? The sheer beauty of it is alluring, but one is always pushed back by the implicit context; giving into the beauty means giving into a dream that turned out to be a nightmare for a huge number of people. Therein lies the brilliance of Tabu.


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