February 26, 2006

Murau's Tabu


A few hours ago I got back from the Goethe Institute where I watched the silent film Tabu by FW Murau with live piano accompaniment. I went to the screening alone, thinking that perhaps a short break from working on this screenplay might help me re-focus. But then I ran into a few old friends at the screening who invited me out for dinner afterwards. I politely declined, saying I had to rush home and get back to work on the screenplay, and now I'm home and staring at the computer screen, not really making any progress, wishing I had gone for dinner before re-entering this struggle between my artistic temperament and my desire to have more discipline.

Tabu is such a beautiful film, so simple and cruel and sad. I'd sort of like to read a 'post-colonial studies' critique of it's racial politics but I will not procrastinate working on the screenplay further by searching the internet for just such a document. There's a moment near the end of Tabu where the male lead is swimming and swimming, trying to catch up with his lover who is being taken away by boat to be sacrificed to the gods, and he finally catches up with the boat and grabs the rope and the villain (not really the villain, more the village elder) calmly cuts the rope without even so much as looking down at it and the male lead keeps swimming but he can't catch up to the boat a second time and soon he gets tired and drowns. Murau is so good at those utterly precise images of otherworldly cruelty.

Working on this screenplay, full of witty dialog and more dialog, is such a stark contrast with the poetic silence of Tabu. Limitations really do add something.


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