I am the son of politically exiled Chileans, which means there lies a particularly sad nostalgia in watching a movie like Neruda. It tells the story of a tragic history that I never suffered directly, even though I lived in the shadow of its consequences. Childhood memories of my mum and aunt silently sobbing in front of the television when Chile was mentioned, or the deafening silence that met a kid’s naive and curious questions about that time. The time before and after the military coup.
As the name suggests, Neruda focuses on the struggle of the celebrated communist poet and politician. It’s 1948 and people like Pablo Neruda (played by Luis Gnecco) are being persecuted, harassed and murdered for standing up to the regime. The manhunt for the poet and his wife is central to the film. In an outstanding performance, Gael García Bernal portrays an ambitious inspector called Oscar Pelluchoneau who is caught between his duty and his conscience as he tracks the missing Neruda.
The story is told up close and personal. This isn’t some romanticised fluffer story of a bohemian author but rather the humanisation of a timeless legend. Put simply, Neruda is a great piece of film that deserves the praise that has been heaped on it. Well-acted, well-scripted and well-directed, it’s proof that the Chilean film industry is doing impressively well. Just as Pablo Neruda himself was awarded a Nobel prize in literature, I would be surprised if his film didn’t at least get nominated for the Oscars.
Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín has worked with García Bernal before on No, the critically acclaimed 2012 film about the advertising campaign that ended Pinochet’s dictatorship. Since then, his career has been on the rise. In 2015 he released The Club, which was nominated for a Golden Globe and right now he has two films on the circuit, Neruda and Jackie. Both were released in December and both are generating a lot of buzz.
By Daniel Ogalde