London’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tabu isn't just a triumph for when it came out. It is a triumph today. An almost all Polynesian cast, as well as an almost all Polynesian crew, there wasnt almost anything else like this in 1931. And to be honest, its hard to find polynesians working on film today, especially when lookinga at areas such as Tahiti. I guess you could say F.W. Murnau was the one good white person.
The imagery is beautiful, and it truly feels like Murnau and company listened to the locals about their customs and their ideals, that it translates to something that feels real. I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, and kapu was a term used quite excessively. It had been muddled over the years and some had forgotten the meaning, but the idea of sacred ideals and codes of conduct that everyone follows was there, and it was very closely related to other Polynesian beliefs, like tabu or tapu. So it was so refreshing to see a film that sees the world through a lense that doesn't have the same white colonial beliefs that are definitely still around today, but absolutely rampant in the 30s.
From a technical stand point, the film remains a marvel. Murnau had very little money for the film, so cut costs by remaining black and white instead of filming in color, but the sheer beauty that he is able to capture in every shot is amazing. People still struggle with filming on water and around water today, but the crew was able to not just film a lot of scenes above water that are extremely beautiful, but was able to use various techniques to film underwater shots. I am absolutely blown away by this film, it's cinematography, it's soundtrack, it's beauty, and everything about it. This is the best silent movie I have ever seen.