Having earlier watched Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s fabulous ‘No Redemption Trilogy’ – the lacerating Tony Manero, the intensely disconcerting Post-Mortem and the incisive No – I, admittedly, was expecting in Neruda a work simmering with political vitriol; the Nobel Laureate, after all, was allegedly murdered – his death had formed the starting point in Jose Donoso’s masterful novel Curfew – by Pinochet’s henchmen for his left-wing affiliations. What Larraín created, instead, was a hypnotic, delightfully digressive and playfully modernist mock-biopic from an earlier period in the celebrated poet’s life – viz. the purges against Communists that the then government had initiated in 1948, which had forced Pablo Neruda, a firebrand and non-conformist Senator then, to go on the run and ultimately into political exile. Neruda (played with hyperbolic flourish and comic élan by Luis Gnecco) is presented here as a person with fascinating contradictions – his bent for decadence, hedonism, amoral preferences and supercilious air courtesy the effect that his poetry had on people, formed striking contrasts to his socialist ideals, doggedness and inner machinations which could produce such verses to begin with. The film’s other protagonist was Óscar (Gale Garcia Bernal in a muted, deadpan performance), a fictitious cop and the tale’s unreliable narrator who’s assigned the task of apprehending and arresting Neruda – his officious demeanour and faux self-importance, as he embarks on a near-mythic albeit hapless odyssey in pursuit of the poet, added wry humour and a deliberate sense of metafiction into the narrative, as he’s possibly a figment of Neruda’s imaginative powers. Mercedes Morán, as Neruda’s sensuous, melancholic wife, completed the triad in this fantastical, satirical, genre-bending and quietly anti-fascist road movie, filled with moody cinematography and a low-key score.
Director: Pablo Larrain
Genre: Biopic/Political Drama/Road Movie