Tabu feels like it could've been made 50 years ago. There are the obvious physical attributes - it's in black and white and in Academy ratio (closer to square-shaped than the standard wider screen), but it also has a lyrical romanticism rare in contemporary films. Yet that's not to say its old fashioned, Tabu doesn't conform to any traditional form of filmmaking.
The film is divided into two parts. The first is Paradise Lost and the second is Paradise. As the titles suggest, the second half is what it's all about. Romantic, grand and beautiful, it often feels like watching classic Fellini.
There's one big difference, though. Portuguese director Gomes has made the daring decision to use no dialogue in the second half, only voice over. Often the voice over will stop and the scenes will continue with the characters moving their mouths but we are left to guess what they are saying. Somehow the effect doesn't distance the audience at all, it kind of feels like reading a book with occasional visual interludes.
Tabu will clearly not be for all tastes. It refuses easy categorisation, and makes little attempt to endear us to its characters. They may look beautiful together, but there's nothing sympathetic about how the two lovers at the centre of the story are drawn.
Even so, this tale of Europeans in love in Africa is undeniably romantic and quite swoon-worthy in it's own way.