Director: Miguel Gomes
Writers: Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo
Cast: Telmo Churro, Miguel Gomes, Hortencillo Aquina
A restless retired woman teams up with her deceased neighbor's maid to seek out a man who has a secret connection to her past life as a farm owner at the foothill of Mount Tabu in Africa. It is filmed in black and white and title of the film is a reference to F. W. Murnau's silent film with the same name, Tabu.
I think this is the first Portuguese film that I have ever watched. I saw it after seeing its name in the Indiewire list of 50 best films from this decade and I think I have seen it mentioned elsewhere as well. It is basically a very simple story that is elevated to a higher level by the way it is told. There is a significant prologue to it before it gets into the main story. Film begins with an abstract scene from Africa about the suicide of an explorer, hoping for a better future, after the death of his wife. Then it cuts to present day Portugal and the protagonist for this segment is the kind retired woman, Pilar. Her neighbor, Aurora, stays with a black maid appointed by her neglectful daughter. Aurora is paranoid and behaves pretty much in the manner that old people close to death would do. She mumbles things about her crocodile in Africa and writes an address and hands it to Pilar when she falls sick. Pilar seeks out and meet the old man mentioned in the address and by the time they reach the hospital, Aurora dies. Then the old man narrates their connection from Africa and turns out that there was more to Aurora than meets the eyes. They had an adulterous relationship in Africa and rest of the story is basically about that. It might sound a bit Bollywoodish and bit like fucking Titanic, but it is a great strange watch. It is shot very much like a silent film with the story largely told through narration in stead of actual dialogs. Some people might be put off by the initial segments of the film but I do think that made the film special since you are not sure where it is going. The contrast between Aurora from the present and the past is so stark, not just in terms of age, and that made the film stand out for me as there is an element of playing with our expectations.
Overall it is a great and unique film. It is not a political film and doesn't try to make a statement about colonialism in any significant sort of way. I saw some criticism for it regarding that, which is utter lunacy as every film doesn't have to be political or with some social message. It is a simple story of love which is told in such a manner that the adulterous nature of it is not made out to feel like cheating in any sort of way. Nobody is portrayed in a bad light and everything happens in a matter of fact way except for the two central characters who feel guilty. It won 'Silver Bear for a feature that opens new perspectives' at the Berlin Film Festival