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In his final film, F.W. Murnau presents the tale of two young lovers on the idyllic island of Bora Bora in the South Pacific. Their life is shattered when the old warrior declares the girl to be the Chosen Maid and it is forbidden for any man to even look upon her. Refusing to accept a life apart, they run off to another island, one that is decadent and westernized. The boy works as a pearl diver but not quite understanding the concept of money, is soon in debt. When the old warrior tracks them down they again plan to run away but in a desperate attempt to pay off his debts, the boy dives for pearls in shark-infested waters. The boy is successful but fate seems determined to keep the two lovers apart. Written by
This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994. See more »
[writing a goodbye letter]
I must go. Hitu is here and waits for me. You will die if I do not obey. I will go so that you may live. The tabu is upon us. I have been so happy with you far more than I deserved. The love you have given me, I will keep to the last beat of my heart. Across the great waters, I will come to you in your dreams when the moon spreads its path on the sea. Farewell.
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"Tabu" is a visually arresting black-and-white silent...and that's a good thing because there's not much else going on here to occupy your mind. Heavy-handed "plot" about a doomed beauty on primitive Bora Bora who flees her island home and family with her lover, unable to escape her unlucky fate, is cast with real islanders so you cannot fault the authenticity; however, there's nobody in the film who leaves an impression. The movie began life as a documentary, but director F.W. Murnau pushed for a fictional storyline to propel the visuals, and this may have been a mistake. As it unfolds, one can see shot after shot of beautiful images that would look wonderful in a coffee-table book for the tiki lounge set, but the dated dramatics muddy things up. Floyd Crosby won a well-deserved Oscar for his cinematography. **1/2 from ****
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