This Portuguese work directed by Miguel Gomes is a film of two halves. Opening in modern day Lisbon and focussing on three elderly women, Aurora, her maid Santa and neighbour Pilar , showing them all in a form of stasis or decline unsure of their role in life. The second two thirds of the film concentrate on a young Aurora and a love affair leading to a fatal mistake which has plagued her life ever since and reveals an insight into the mental instability which dogs her in the latter stages of her life.
The film begins with the awkward dynamic which exists between the three elderly women and the inability of each to cope with the other whilst also needing the support and companionship the others provide. There are droll moments of humour which are delivered deadpan providing much needed light relief as the action often seems disjointed and difficult to follow. It is only when the drama moves to the past that a more coherent narrative starts to emerge.
Shifting back several decades we find ourselves in Colonial Africa and the young newly-wed Aurora. Her marital bliss is about to be ruptured however as she embarks on an affair with the devilishly handsome, sexy and charming Gian Luca. Matters are complicated even further by the fact she is already pregnant when the affair begins and it is clear to the audience that this situation is not going to end well for someone although it is never clear who will suffer the most. The outcome when it arrives is surprising but like almost everything else about this film it almost feels understated.
Tabu is a well crafted film in black and white-furthering the sense of cinema and hazy recollection- with the present day action resembling an Almodovar film but drained of the entire vivid colour scheme which resonates through the Spaniard’s work. The return to the past is delivered like a silent film with a sympathetic voiceover narrative which never seems to judge or cloud issues but merely deliver the facts. It is more a great cinematic experience than a great film but it is consistently visually arresting and the voice over technique lends it an original appeal.
Tabu is released in September