|'At one point Ventura does let us in on the secret that 'everything I'm telling you is not reality, but tales', which makes you wonder quite why you bothered to listen to him'|
Tabu is described as 'an engaging, provocative and poetic film... the first part portrays a society wallowing in nostalgia, the second part goes back in time and plays with history, sound, the concept of linear narration, as well as the ideas of melodrama, slapstick, passion and tragedy', which just goes to show you how wrong the guff plastered around various places to describe films can be.
Tabu is neither engaging, nor provocative, although it does have a certain amount of visual poetry, accentuated in the second half which is dialogueless, save the narration. The first part, in which we see Aurora (Laura Soveral), suffering from what appears to be dementia, hardly 'wallows' in nostalgia, rather it dips its toe towards it before deciding that it's actually more interested in Aurora's new gambling problem.
The second, admittedly more interesting, segment doesn't 'play' with anything, although it does trudge through a younger Aurora's (Ana Moreira) flirtatious affair with Ventura (Carloto Cotta), in an un-named African country, presumably meant to be one or all of the former Portuguese colonies. That this section works at all is entirely due to the two leads who are alluring and besotted enough to carry off the charm which the film as whole sorely lacks.
The insistence of the description that Tabu deals with history, time and nostalgia, coupled with the 'how we were' setting and Aurora's tragic downfall makes you believe that director Miguel Gomes has something to say about colonisation and its effects. Perhaps he does, although he hides it well and it is telling that he is more interested in the coloniser than the colonised. There's a civil war going on in the background but to Gomes the most interesting thing is the love of Aurora and Ventura and their white, upper-to-middle class problems. Aurora does keep a crocodile as a pet, which could easily be read as a metaphor for keeping the most dangerous foes close. In-keeping with the rest of the film, Gomes seems uninterested in pursuing the notion further.
At one point Ventura as an old man (Henrique Espírito Santo), narrating, does let us in on the secret that 'everything I'm telling you is not reality, but tales', which makes you wonder quite why you bothered to listen to him but does suggest some evidence that there is too something here concerned with storytelling. Perhaps too there's a message in the fact that a distinctly out-of-place Chelsea football shirt can be glimpsed in the 2nd half (set in the, what, 1950s-1960s?), complete with Samsung sponsorship. Presumably that's also there because it has something to say about 'linear narration'. Or it might just be that it's a mistake.