We’ve been waiting all year for Gizeh Records’ Dark Peak series to continue, and our patience has finally been rewarded. Christine Ott‘s score to the 2012 film Tabu is mesmerizing and emotional, a worthy follow-up to the still-fresh Only Silence Remains.
The original Tabu premiered in the shadow of tragedy following the untimely death of director F.W. Murnau in 1931. The new film (directed by Miguel Gomes) pays homage to the old, and won two awards at the Berlin Film Festival, including one for artistic innovation. One glimpse at the trailer (below), and one can see why. The film is elliptical, beautifully lensed, and shot in a way that seems both ancient and new. The black-and-white cinematography compares favorably with that of The Artist and Good Night and Good Luck, although its tonal palette is closer to Wings of Desire and the classics of the early 20th century. Ott’s love for the source material is apparent in her performance, which is being presented live as an audio-visual event.
Ott turns out to be a perfect match for the film. On the one hand, it’s a story of forbidden love; on a deeper level, it’s a tale of restriction v. abandon. Her music has always contained dramatic tension, and Tabu allows her to stretch her creative wings. The piano is still primary, and Ott’s instrument of choice, the Ondes martenot, continues to shine in crucial segments. As the film travels back and forth across time, so does the music, which doesn’t grow dark until the center. The piano can still be heard, but now comes across as contemplative and mournful. Long stretches of dark ambience wash over the listener like clouds of bitter regret. One can sense that something has gone horribly, heartbreakingly wrong. The waves that seemed so benign in the opening piece seem cold and impassive in “Paradise Lost”, swallowing memories, emotions, intent. Even the occasional tribal drums seem crushed by the weight of inevitability.
By “Cursed Lagoon”, one can understand why this is part of the Dark Peak series. Martenot phrases echo through the murk, intimating love caught in sludge. This being said, neither the movie nor the score are entirely dark. “Consolation” produces the feeling implied by its title, appearing in separate versions as if to underline the point, while “Rêve & Perle Noire” allows the Ondes martenot to aspire to a higher plane. To strive ~ whether romantically or musically ~ is to achieve a certain nobility, no matter what the eventual outcome; here, Ott restores dignity to doomed love. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 16 December