#56 Tabu (1931)

Introducing the last film of F.W. Murnau, filmmaker of Nosferatu, Sunrise, and many others, who died a few days after its release date in a car accident- never being able to make the transition to sound films. This romantic drama is about two people who are in love with each other on the island of Bora Bora but are torn apart after the girl is declared The Chosen Maid which means death to any man who even looks at her.

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I can tell that Robert Flaherty made his mark on this film. Since this film takes place on an island that wasn’t familiar in the early days of cinema, the film introduces us to the beliefs and traditions of the islanders as well as the beautiful island. The story definitely has a Romeo and Juliet vibe as these two lovers are told not to be together by society but sneak off in order to live their lives in harmony even while the curse catches up to them. The final scene as The Boy is caught up in the crushing waves trying to chase the boat the love of his life is in will leave you with chills. The story is told in a Nanook of the North style documentary where you get natural glimpses of the people’s way of life and the environment they live in with no dialogue. Especially considering how the only famous people who took part in this film is Robert Flaherty, F.W. Murnau, and cinematographer Floyd Crosby. Everyone else in the film were non-actors.

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Sometimes when different people work together, they say two heads are better than one. That way you can add in different perspectives and different modes of creativity to make a fantastic work of art. Well that wasn’t the case for the partnership of Flaherty and Murnau. Flaherty thought Murnau was arrogant and didn’t care for his thoughts. He just made Flaherty spend his entire time developing the film in a lab, only letting him film the opening scene. He didn’t even credit Flaherty as co-director! Write in if you feel Flaherty was being treated unfairly or if Murnau was simply just trying to be a professional. 

Watch F.W. Murnau’s very last film and comment your reactions:

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