Director Pablo Larrain’s Neruda tells the tale of Chilean Communist Pablo Neruda, considered one of the greatest poets of the Spanish language.
While parts of Larrain’s film are fictional, it is firmly based in real historic events.
It revolves around the period when the Communist Party was outlawed in 1948, which Chileans refer to as “La Ley Maldita” (The Damned Law).
At the time Neruda was a senator representing a mining community in northern Chile.
He was hunted by the Chilean government and forced to go into hiding.
The film centres on two protagonists—Neruda (Luis Gnecco) and fictional police inspector Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal).
In his rather foggy existence, the cop devotes his body and soul to hunt down Neruda.
Bernal manages to bring out the complex feelings of a lonely and repressed individual.
In a funny way, you actually feel sorry for Peluchonneau.
Gnecco also gives a convincing performance, even imitating the poet’s distinctive voice.
This chase between a hunter and a prey takes place across the spectacular forests and mountains of Chile and ends at South America’s most southwesterly point.
Larrain skillfully captures this wild immensity.
But it is disappointing that Larrain doesn’t tap into the diverse richness of Neruda’s experience of living and dreaming among the people who helped him during this period.
Before managing to escape to Paris, Neruda was hidden by workers in shanty towns and with the indigenous Mapuche for a year and a half.
He was linked with the struggles of Chile’s working class and oppressed, and it is disappointing that this intent wasn’t brought out more in the film.
Partly because of this, the film is only a partial portrayal of a figure who dreamt and fought for a new beginning.
Neruda was an important literary figure, who created many enchanting romantic poems.
But he also wrote political works including one of the powerful poems against the fascists in Spain, “Espana en el corazon” (Spain in Our Hearts).
Larrain’s picture is entertaining as a story of the hunt for Neruda and is worth seeing.
But perhaps another Chilean will take up the difficult task of bringing the full richness of his character to the big screen.