Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Guillermo Calderón
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Diego Muñoz, Alejandro Goic, Pablo Derqui
Part of: Viennale (this year’s surprise movie)
Seen on: 30.10.2016
Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) is a wanted man. Not only for his famous poetry, but also for his politics: having become a member and high-ranking official for the recently declared illegal Communist Party in Chile, the police try to capture him. It’s Detective Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) who gets tasked and increasingly obsessed with capturing Neruda, even as he tries to flee the country.
I probably wouldn’t have chosen to watch Neruda, given that I’m neither very familiar with his poetry, nor with Chilean politics, but that’s the risk you take with surprise screenings. With that caveat in mind, I thought that Neruda had some interesting ideas, but it didn’t really come together for me at all.
The film plays a lot with narrative structures (I don’t know if that’s something that Neruda also did in his poetry, but I would like it if it was the case): it keeps to the perspective of Neruda himself but it is narrated by Peluchonneau, which is a double-perspective-balance that’s pretty interesting. And the ending is cleverly metafictional as well.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t help the feeling throughout the entire duration that the film is constantly congratulating itself on how wonderfully clever it is. It is impressed by its own cleverness so much, it becomes annoying as fuck. Almost as annoying as the music that didn’t fit the film at all and was simply overdramatic. Given that it also feels terribly long and it made watching the film pretty unbearable for me.
My highlight of the film was Neruda’s wife Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán). I liked her as a person and I really liked her art that was featured in the film (Neruda’s poetry, on the other hand, didn’t resonate with me, at least not in the way it was presented here). Unfortunately the film doesn’t spend that much time with her. The film’s other saving grace was the sense of humor that did manage to penetrate the layers of cleverness every once in a while.
But any goodwill those things could build up with me was lost in the boredom of the film that the unnecessary orgy scenes in it couldn’t help either. I wish I had left the film inspired to read Neruda’s poetry or at least more knowledgeable about it, but instead I just felt dreary.
Summarizing: Maybe if you know more about the entire story going in. But for me, it didn’t work at all.