As part of fall film festival in Munich, Louis Gentile is commissioned to write the score

for a scene in the 1931 Oscar film classic TABU / TABOO!

Read synopsis below before viewing film!!

Chapter 1 - Paradise: The youngsters Matahi and Reri are in love for each other. When Reri is chosen by the old warrior Hitu to be the god's maid, she must stay virgin and untouched, otherwise her lover and she should die. But Matahi abducts and escapes with her to an island ruled by the white man, were their gods would be harmless and powerless. Chapter 2 - Lost Paradise: Matahi is an excellent diver, getting many pearls from the bottom of the ocean, but he does not know the meaning of money, promoting a feast to the villagers and signing the bills the smart Chinese businessman presents to him. Meanwhile Hitu chases them, and Matahi and Reri decide to buy a ticket to travel by ship to another place. However, the Chinese charges the bill and Matahi, without any money, goes to a forbidden sea with sharks trying to get a huge pearl to pay for his debts and escape with Reri. But she decides to leave the island with Hitu and spare Matahi's life. But Matahi swims after their boat, dying of exhaustion in the sea.

The scene Louis Gentile was entrusted, is the so called "Festival scene." A great feast is prepared in honor of the visiting elder who has come to take away the young maiden (Reri) from her home, (and true love Matahi)  to become an unwilling bride on a distant island. All this against her will and the will of her parents and true love. The scene focuses on the struggle of the young couple to part with one another. The young maiden who is seen crying and torn from her parents and her young lover, who struggles with himself to take part in a ceremony that will give his true love to another!


There were a few massive technical obstacles this scene presented me with. First of all, it is a festival, a feast, but a tragic one. The people of the village rejoice in the preparation of this rare feast which is an honor to their village, yet the sadness and sorrow of the scene overshadows the otherwise jubilant members of the tribe happily making all necessary preparations to honor their visiting guest.

Second of all, the scene is LOADED with scenes of drums and dancing! (part of the commission requested MINIMAL percussion and a small chamber orchestra!!! How could I compose music for a scene that was at least 60% drums and people bouncing around to the beat of the drums!!!)

For me the key to the musical drive of the scene, was the orgasmic ecstasy reached when Matahi finally joins in the ceremony, stares down all the others who are dancing with his love Reri, and dances with her, inspiring the rest of the tribe into frantic joyous convulsive hysteria! I built the musical theme on this final meeting of the two lovers before she is taken away!

There are four basic themes, motives, that run through the scene.  First comes the "call of fate" sounded by the horn as the scene opens, which leads directly into a woodwind version of the "ecstasy dance" which foreshadows that which is to come. Then there are the "Reri and elder themes." Reri's  melancholy romantic string theme is in stark contrast to the few staccato and blunt notes blurted out by the bassoon to underscore the visiting elder.

Obviously trying to do a "re-dub" of the drums, or the film altogether, is simply wrong. I tried to concentrate on the emotional issues of the film, and create a thread linking them all.

The last scene, where Reri is finally taken away, I wrote as a kind of "death row" execution march.

The version you hear here is a larger, fuller orchestra version than the original version written for chamber orchestra. Here I utilized more brass and more percussion than was allowed in the commission, which is to be played by a live orchestra while the film is being shown during the festival.

Louis Gentile


When this film was released, all the scenes involving nudity were cut out. Here the film is shown in it's original form.

The director of the film, F.W: Murnau, was on his way (in California) to do the musical score to finish the film, when he died in a car crash on the way to the session. He never saw his last masterpiece.