Tabu Review

Image for Tabu

In this half-documentary, half-fictionalised story a young pearl-fisher runs away with the virginal Reri. With only minimal narrative, the film runs more like a travelogue equally concerned with showing off the beautiful scenery of Tahiti.


Shot in 1929 and unreleased until after Murnau's death, this South Sea island tale is a strange collaboration between two major filmmakers of the late silent era. Robert Flaherty (Nanook Of The North) was only interested in telling a story as a way of exploring the lives of real-life primitive peoples, while Murnau (Nosferatu) was the arch-fantasist of everyday life, transforming anything realistic into the magical.

In the end, Murnau seems to have won the quarrel for there is a lot less documentary pearl-fishing than desperate love as a young diver (Mahati) dares defy tabu by making away with sacred virgin Chevalier. It winds up with a watery liebestod that is peculiarly powerful.

It might not sound promising having a director most known for a film about Dracula, direct a love story, but teaming up with Flaherty, the two have created a beautiful romance, with stunning scenery and lasting performances fro two charismatic leads.