Rest assured, a lot of us will get to hear about one Miguel Gomes in coming years - an impressive and insightful young director from Portugal. I say so, despite having seen only the latest of his three features to date, "Tabu".
Distinctly separated into two parts, the first part "Paradise Lost" relates to Pilar, a middle aged woman in contemporary Lisbon (played by Teresa Madruga) worrying about failing mental health of her eccentric neighbour, the elderly Aurora (Laura Soveral). Aurora is already cared for by Santa (Isabel Cardoso), a black woman who she despicably keeps addressing as a witch. When Aurora's health deteriorates further and is admitted to hospital, she requests Pilar to find a person she had never heard mentioned before, a certain Gian Luca Ventura. But Pilar could locate and bring him along only to Aurora's funeral, after which Ventura (played by Henrique Espirito Santo) opens up to his story from fifty-odd years ago in colonial Africa, voiced over by the director sans dialogues in the second part, titled "Paradise".
We witness Ventura's (Carloto Cotta) passionate affair with a young but already married Aurora (Ana Moreira) in the foothills of Mount Tabu, Mozambique. To complicate matters, Aurora is already pregnant through her husband. But not only do they throw caution to the wind in pursuit of their affair, they also fall in love, and even attempt to elope. But the affair had to end abruptly, despite their mutual love. They will neither see nor hear from each other after that day...
That's the outward love story. Hidden within this pure and simple screenplay are nevertheless allegorical layers that are political, social, and philosophical, which intimately relates to Portugal and its colonial history itself. You may want to catch some of this in Gomes' own words from an interview HERE. The cinematography by Rui Poças is magnificent, and what's more, it is gloriously captured in good-ol' black and white film (how wonderful to watch the Kodak MPF logo roll past in a new film's credits), and in full frame too. Both the parts are yet distinctive in their various moods and I suspect, even film stock used; while the first part adds an air of melancholy with its dark grey tones, the second is markedly overexposed to recreate a youthful, 'sunnier' part of the protagonists' lives. The screenplay is very effective, and the script for the African segment was written directly while editing the shot footage. The film has virtues I haven't even touched upon, like the main cast's totally brilliant performances, perhaps the aforementioned interview with the director is worth checking out. Needless to say, this superb little gem is definitely Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link
The Nudity: Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta
There's just a single instance of nudity from Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta during a sex scene, playing the characters of young Aurora and Ventura respectively.