Tabu’s narrative is split into two parts: Lost Paradise and Paradise. The first hour of the film follows the lives of three elderly women in present day Lisbon: Pilar (Teresa Madruga), Santa (Isabel Cardoso) and Aurora (Laura Soveral). The three elderly women are all going about their mundane lives, until Aurora’s death and it’s this event that triggers the film’s second half, Paradise.
The film’s first act concludes with the introduction of Mr Ventura, a former lover of Aurora’s, who Pilar tracks down so he can attend the funeral. And so Paradise begins with Mr Ventura narrating the youthful love affair that took place between him and Aurora. The film’s second half is almost entirely silent, apart from diegetic sound effects ie the sound of wind blowing, instruments being played or guns being fired. The only other exception is the voiceover, which is provided by present-day Mr Ventura.
The film is certainly idiosyncratic, although in no way comparable to say the likes of the talented Guy Maddin. Supposedly there are some who have enjoyed this aspect of Tabu. The film is shot in 4:3 with most characters being framed centrally and there’s minimum camera movement, with Gomes preferring to keep his camera static. What’s more, there’s little use of depth of field, which in some ways might be seen as an attempt to recall the films of FW Murnau, specifically his Tabu (Murnau, 1931). Either way, Tabu’s cinematography is as dull as the film’s narrative.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film, is its opening section, which is prominently filled with elderly women -this is interesting because older women are unquestionably one of the most marginalised demographics in cinema.
In a recent interview, Gomes was questioned as to why he opted to split Tabu’s narrative and the director responded that he gets bored easily. Well, unfortunately for Gomes, his film is about as exciting as bible studies. The success behind this black and white festival favourite is mystifying, it’s both long and boring, and to be perfectly blunt, you’re better off wasting your time with the likes of Taken 2 (Megaton, 2012), which really is saying something.
Tabu is being screened at Dartington’s Barn Cinema until Monday, October 8 2012.