Some foreign films are delicate flowers that seem shy and humble, unwilling to extend themselves with flair and energy. Others are flamboyant flowers that reach for the sky and grow in a profusion of color and scent. In his third feature, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes has made a creative and complicated dream-like film about yearning and duty. The first section is set in modern day Lisbon and titled "Paradise Lost." The second section, titled "Paradise," is set in a Portuguese colony in Africa 50 years earlier and has no audible dialogue except a voice-over narration by one of the characters.
In "Paradise Lost," Pilar (Teresa Madruga) is a very religious older woman who keeps to herself but takes seriously the duties which make life palatable. She prays every night, goes to the movies, and participates in U.N. protests. But the most bizarre dimension of her life is an immersion in the affairs of Aurora (Laura Soveral), a neighbor with a gambling addiction and a quiet housekeeper Santa (Isabel Cardoso) who looks after her as best she can.
Although Pilar has an ardent suitor, a painter named Mario (Manuel Mesquita), she spurns his romantic intentions. In contrast, Aurora who is facing death and wants Pilar to locate Gian Luca Ventura (Henrique Espirito Santo), her former lover.
Gomas shifts gears in "Paradise" and we are transported to an estate at the foot of Mount Tabu where a young Aurora (Ana Moreira) and her husband (Ivo Muller) live. She is a skilled hunter who loves danger and thrills. When she meets Ventura (Carloto Cotta), they ease into a passionate love affair.
With no audible dialogue and an effective use of silences, the director is able to convey the volatile emotions which form Aurora's desires. This gives this second section of Tabu its dreamlike quality.
Here is a drama designed for adventuresome filmgoers who are on the lookout for something a little bit different.
Special features on the DVD include the short films "A Christmas Inventory" and "31 Films Means Trouble."
Screened at The 50th New York Film Festival: September/October 2012.