Tabu (also called Tabu, a Story of the South Seas) is a 1931 film which tells the story of two lovers in the South Seas, who must escape their village when the girl is chosen as the holy maid to the gods. According to an intertitle at the beginning, "only native-born South Sea islanders appear in this picture with a few half-castes and Chinese".The movie was written by Robert J. Flaherty, F.W. Murnau and Edgar G. Ulmer. It was directed by Murnau. The title of the film comes from the concept of tapu (sometimes spelled tabu, which originated the concept of taboo). It is a form of sacredness in many Polynesian cultures (see: tapu (Polynesian culture).Murnau was killed in an automobile accident on 11 March 1931, shortly before a preview screening of Tabu was scheduled to take place in Los Angeles.Cinematographer Floyd Crosby, father of musician David Crosby, won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on this film. In 1994, Tabu was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Tabu was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and has been released on DVD by Milestone Films and on a special edition DVD and book by Masters of Cinema.Matahi is a pearl diver from Bora Bora, a small island in the South Pacific. One day, he meets the beautiful Reri and falls in love with her. Shortly after they meet, the Tribal Elders of the surrounding islands arrive. Their maid to the gods has died and they choose Reri because she is the most beautiful. If any man has a lustful gaze at her, they will be punished by the gods. Matahi is unwilling to let her go; at night, he sneaks her off the Elders' ship and they escape the island by canoe. Eventually, they arrive on a French Colony, where Matahi is happy but Reri is fearful that the Elders will find them. After the Elders do come to the colony and leave, Reri tries to buy a ticket for them to escape to the mainland. However, Matahi has no concept of money and they find themselves in debt. One night, Matahi decides to go out and obtain a pearl from a shark-infested region of the reef. While he is away, the Elders arrive to take Reri; she agrees if they spare Matahi's life. When he returns, he finds her note and tries to swim after their boat. After grabbing a rope, the Head Elder cuts it loose; Matahi continues swimming after them and drowns.
Year of Production: 1931
Length: 84 min
Country: United States
- F.W. Murnau
- David Flaherty, Robert J. Flaherty, F.W. Murnau
- Matahi, Anne Chevalier, Bill Brambridge, Hitu, Jean