Directed by Pablo Larrain.
Starring Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, and Mercedes Morán.
A revered poet and politician is forced into refuge after clashing with the Chilean government. A complicated game of cat and mouse ensues between the poet and the police officer assigned to arrest him.
Taking the conflict between poet and political senator Pablo Neruda and the anti-communist Chilean government as its background, this latest from Pablo Larrain (No, The Club, Jackie) plays out like a metaphysical chase movie, with the rich imagination of the writer being harnessed as a creative suit of armour to protect him and his interests.
During political congress in 1948, Senator Neruda (Luis Gnecco) accuses President González Videla’s (Alfredo Castro) government of betraying the Communist Party and is then impeached and a warrant put out for his arrest. Police Prefect Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) is assigned to arrest the poet. Fearing for his safety, Neruda tries to leave Chile with his artist wife Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán) but they are turned back and forced into hiding. This new life of refuge and uncertainty inspires the poet to create new work new myths and new legends.
While the setting and mood of the piece is beautifully represented and there is genuine tension built up with Peluchonneau’s determination to ‘win’ his arrest, the film as a whole is starkly unconventional and all the better for it. Without giving away too many details, the story is partly based on Neruda’s private imaginings, and how much is fact or fiction becomes increasingly unimportant. What is necessary is the power of belief, memory and poetry itself, to build up a workable formation of reality. So, we have a deconstructed – and then re-constructed – biopic.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Neruda is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital from today, July 10th.
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.