Tabu is a lyrical documentary of Polynesian life, given added audience appeal with a fictional plotline. The story concerns a young island girl (Anna Chevalier, who like everyone in the cast is a non-professional) who has been consecrated to the gods by her tribespeople. It is thus "tabu" for her to marry; still, she falls in love with a handsome young pearl fisherman (Matahi). The island's holy man takes the girl away in his schooner. Her lover swims after her, but eventually sinks disconsolately into the ocean. Shot completely on location, it was supposed to be a collaboration between German director F. W. Murnau and American documentary producer Robert Flaherty. Flaherty withdrew from the project when he realized the film was taking a romanticized approach. Murnau never lived to see the final product; he was killed in a car accident just before the film's opening. Begun as a silent film in 1929, Tabu was released in that form in 1931, despite the fact that talking pictures already had been established for nearly three years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
In watching this film, I kept having to remind myself that it was an old silent film. I unfairly wanted more from this film that was almost as old as my Grandmother. The cinema picture was well shot and the dramatics of those starring in the film are impressive considering they WERE NOT actors and everything was conveyed by facial/body expressions. I recommend this film for those who like a little something different in a movie or those who are true movie buffs.
An interesting film, a radical departure in themes previously explored in Murnau's work, but still heavily reliant on visuals to tell his story. Oscar-winning cinematography doesn't look as good now as it probably did then, and the background story was more intriguing (Murnau's clashes with Flaherty, his death one week before the film's premiere following a car crash). Stil, worth seeing.