Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

There are many notable moments in Tabu that call for a detailed analysis. The second part of the film, titled “Paradise”, is told entirely in voice over and Gomes’s stylistic choices in editing, performances and cinematography become more prominent in delivering the scenes’ atmospheres and the characters’ moods. This voice over belongs to Gian Luca, who recalls the memories of the secret relationship he had with a married woman, Aurora, back in the 1960s in Africa amid the uprisings leading to the Portuguese Colonial War.

One of these moments takes place at the backyard of a house that Aurora and Gian Luca are visiting. The voice-over narration stops right after the narrator describes how anxious he felt within Aurora’s husband’s presence. A group of friends are visiting this house including him and Gian Luca sees it as an opportunity to be near Aurora.

Once the voice-over stops, the scene continues in complete silence except for some sound effects. Gian Luca is sitting by himself in a garden that is presumably at the back of the house. Aurora is walking towards him. A gunshot marks her approach as if warning them of the possible dangers they may put themselves into. But both seem to be indifferent to this sound. Gian Luca’s back is turned to us, but he appears to be staring off into the distance; once she approaches him, Aurora also turns around to look into the same direction. Next, the two lovers are sitting side by side. Aurora points at something above while Gian Luca seems confused. She carefully studies his face. Then we see a shot of the clouds in the sky, over which a drawing slowly appears, sketching their shape. The two lovers are playing a game.

tabu_01

In this silent moment, Aurora’s love for Gian Luca is evident in her gestures as well as her guilt and wariness, and these are the emotions that are missing from the narrator’s point of view.

A similar moment of silence occurs when the two lovers are briskly walking through a field, right after we see them in bed and Gian Luca’s voice over says, “But in her arms, the future seemed a vague and stupid concept.” This scene is composed of a minute and a half long tracking shot that records the transition of their emotions from happiness to sorrow.

tabu_02

In this walk, there is evidence of the lovers’ anxiety as much as their defiance against everything that might hold them back. It starts with them hopping happily over the bushes, mostly hand-in-hand, and ends when they stop, hold each other tight and look directly at the camera. This look is powerful yet desperate; they are not willing to give each other up at any cost, but they seem to know what future holds for them. Moreover, the direct address to the camera has an effect of holding anyone who witnesses this secret moment responsible for their unhappiness. After all, what keeps them from being together is not themselves, but other people; or anyone who looks and judges.

This walk brings the lovers back from the ethereal world they have created to the bitter reality. The first minute of the tracking shot shows them as unaware of anything, as if hidden in a secret place, while in the last half minute, there is evidence in both the characters’ expressions that they are not alone, or even being watched. Their joy fades, they slow down, then they look into each other’s eyes as if asking for support and get ready to face the camera.

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