Film Review: Neruda


In association with Glasgow Film Theatre

Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda is the mythical protagonist of Pablo Larraín’s fantastical biopic Neruda. When President Gabriel González Videla (Alfredo Castro) outlaws communism in 1948, Neruda (Luis Gnecco), who was the leader of the communist party at the time, is forced into hiding. Videla orders policeman Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) to find him, an order which sets in motion a cat and mouse chase between two characters who are at once so different in physical appearance, political view and social position, and yet strangely alike in their philosophical soul searching. Gnecco and Bernal embody the two men in a way which suggests that they were born to play these roles. Where Peluchonneau is slender and sharp looking, Neruda is portly and flamboyant and where Peluchonneau is introduced as a man with a keen sense of duty and patriotism, Neruda is wild, reckless and self obsessed.

It is this self obsession that drives the film. Neruda insists on leaving his hiding place to attend parties, some extravagant feasts and others intimate visits to local brothels, and when it comes time to make his escape to Argentina, Neruda’s wife Delia (played with great charm and strength by Mercedes Morán) waits for Peluchonneau so that she may goad him for only being a supporting character in Neruda’s story, and in doing so gives him the impetus to keep up the hunt. Larrain constantly explores the intricacies of story telling throughout the film, asking how the works of a poet such as Neruda, or indeed a filmmaker such as himself, interacts with reality. For Neruda, and increasingly for Peluchonneau, art and life are one and the same.

With Neruda, Larraín unleashes all of his directorial poeticism. In a number of scenes, two characters are suddenly relocated to a totally different setting from the one they were just in. Void of other individuals who had a moment before been present, and often shrouded in an intimate gloom, these fantastical plains in which clandestine conversations are held are spaces in which knowledge which ought not to be shared is spoken, and thoughts better kept to oneself are voiced. Such interactions are a reminder, and a warning, of the impact of an oppressive regime such as Videla’s on the liberty of the individual.

[Tim Abrams – @timabrams123]

The film will be screened at Glasgow Film Theatre until the 13th of April. Tickets available here.

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