Murnau-Flaherty Productions

Romance Drama Adventure
86 min     7.123     1931     USA


On the South Pacific island of Bora Bora, a young couple's love is threatened when the tribal chief declares the girl a sacred virgin.


CinemaSerf wrote:
Though beautifully shot, this is - in fact - rather a horrible film! Set on the peaceful and beautiful island of Bora Bora, we meet a young girl "Reri" (Anne Chavalier) who is selected by the chief to be the next sacred virgin. This is an honour, a position that will earn her respect and comfort but it will deny her that which she craves the most - her true love (Matahi). Desperate, the two decide to abscond and he finds himself eking a living in a more venal, European, community where his angry Gods lack any power but where his lack of familiarity with the very concept of money soon sees him, quite literally, swimming in a sea of debt. Meantime, the chief back home (Hitu) has declared that there needs to be a search for them that involves the police (Bill Bambridge). When the officer tracks them down and they face arrest, the young man resorts to even more dangerous diving - amidst sharks - to obtain the pearls he needs to pay off his creditors so they can skedaddle again. Of course, the best laid plans and all that, and when he returns to their shack, he finds that she has decided to sacrifice her happiness and return to their home... Can they reunite? This film cleverly marries a mixture of ritualism and emotion, and illustrates really quite clearly just how incompatible they can be. A young couple doing no harm to anyone, in a nation that would ordinarily embrace their affection, find themselves forced by superstition to flee, to compromise and to live in fear. The whole film has a futility to it that's writ large and is actually quite exasperating to watch. Leave them be, for heaven's sake! Find another virgin? I'm not sure if F.W. Murnau is having a go at religiosity, or at the fallibility of love itself - and that ambiguity makes this all the more interesting to watch. The fact that even they knew their relationship was likely to end in disappointing failure still didn't deter them from earning the enmity of their leaders and the authorities - yet instinct and their visceral need for each other overrode those palpably presented dangers. That the setting is so idealistic and benign seems to rub salt into their wounds and as love stories go, this is probably the one that most tugged on my heart-strings. It does look super on a big screen if you can, and the subject does give a rich bed for the accompanist to play both rousingly and tenderly.