Tuesday 11 July 2017


From acclaimed director Pablo Larrain, Neruda is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital.

After opposing the new President in post-war Chile, eccentric poet and politician Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) is forced into exile for his communist views, taking refuge whilst planning his escape from the country with Gael Garcia Bernal's police chief Oscar Peluchonneau hot on his trail. During this time Neruda enlists the help of his supporters to continue to spread his work, with Peluchonneau revealing scandalous details of his personal life in an attempt to discredit him.

The sixth film from Pablo Larrain (and third in two years), if his English language debut Jackie was your first exposure to his work as a filmmaker, Neruda is a solid introduction to his Spanish language films (see also, No and Tony Manero). Larrain's films have always erred on the political side, with most of his work studying the varying impact the Pinochet regime had on his home country of Chile. Neruda is no different, showing how the opposing sides in this cat and mouse game used propaganda to support their own ideologies and political beliefs.

Like Jackie, this is not a complete life story of the title character but more of a snapshot of their life during a time that would come to define them. It lacks the emotional connection that Jackie had, largely down to that film's Oscar worthy central performance of Natalie Portman. That's not to say the performances in Neruda are bad, but they are not as captivating as Portman, but then, not many things are. Larrain's direction is solid, with the story moving at such a pace that it rarely stays in one location for more than one scene; but this does make it dizzying at times, adding to a sense of disconnect as the film purposely never reconciles which of its two central leads we should be behind. You would think Gael Garcia Bernal's fascist officer of the state would be the nominal villain, but this story is never as clean cut as that. Pompous and acutely aware of the power of his celebrity, Gnecco's Neruda is far from the figurehead the uprising would want him to be.

It paints a bleak landscape for Neruda to occupy, but what the film lacks is any real dramatic tension in his pursuit. This could have been the compelling backbone to the film that acts as the driving force for the narrative, but The Fugitive this is not. It's a shame that as a necessity of the story Gnecco and Bernal do not share the screen more, for as representatives of opposing forces using similar methods to spread their word, they make for interesting counterpoints.

Never sure of what is truth, what is fiction and what lies somewhere in between, this is a film about the power of the word and as such suffers somewhat as a cinematic experience. Having said that, there is a level of playfulness with the form (Larrain's use of rear projection during the driving scenes is befitting with the era, if not a little jarring to see), and for those who are looking to expand their knowledge of the films of Pablo Larrain, this unconventional biopic is a great example of what he is capable of.


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