This real episode – at least the beginning of the escape of one of the 20th century most prolific poets – inspires Director Pablo Larraín a great visual poem, composed of short, intense and dreamy scenes. In this masterpiece, Neruda recognises his own heroic possibilities: a chance to become both a symbol for freedom and a literary legend.
Neruda (Luis Gnecco) tries to flee the country with his wife, the painter Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán), but they are forced into hiding after being accused, in congress, of betraying the Communist Party. It’s 1948 and the Cold War is raging around the world. It’s now reaching Chile. Grotesque, jealous and pathetic Prefect Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) is assigned to arrest the poet. While Neruda plays with the inspector, leaving clues designed to make their game of cat and mouse more dangerous, the poet envisages his escape as an opportunity to become a legend. In Europe, the legend of the poet hounded by the policeman grows, and artists led by Pablo Picasso clamour for Neruda’s freedom.
Luis Gnecco inhabits this crushing role with perfection and charisma. In this dazzling anti-biopic, the filmmaker plays with style and symbols, and delivers a poetic film, putting the relationship and duality of Neruda and Peluchonneau at the centre of this schizophrenic story.
Neruda’s imagination, his influence on artists and people around the world, his creative and controversial life make him a hero as the narration unfolds. Peluchonneau’s stupid character culminates in tragedy, as the policeman dramatically fails in his attempt to lock artistry and freedom.
The film was a Nominee at the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film. Neruda is his sixth feature film. In 2016, Pablo Larraín also directed his first English speaking feature, Jackie, starring Natalie Portman.
NERUDA is in UK cinemas 7 April.