Films based on the years after World War 2 are always interesting because they look at how the world changed forever. Going through huge changes forced by such a chaotic event, many people were still victims of political change. Neruda is one of these stories, but it takes an interesting perspective based on the characters of the story.
When Nobel Prize-winning Chilean Poet Neruda (Luis Gnecco) becomes a fugitive in his own country for joining the Communist Party he is hunted down by Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) a young lieutenant looking to make his mark. With a hard-fought game of cat and mouse though, the relationship between the two takes an interesting turn.
What makes Neruda an interesting movie is the way the story is told, and how it affects the two characters. Peluchonneau is the narrator for the film, letting the audience into his inner thoughts as he hunts down the poet, but the way he narrates is interesting. Not only do we see that Neruda is a poet, but the film itself through dialogue and narration is done in a poetic style.
In this use of poetry to tell the tale, we get to see more about the characters and their inner drives and desires. What is revealed is that the young lieutenant is as romantic (and romanticised) as Neradu himself. He longs to live up to what he sees as a proud life story he has built up around himself, and he wants to be the one to catch a high-profile target like Neruda.
Through this poetic style, the style of the film is also affected and it is very stylised in its approach. It feels like a film that would have been filmed in the fourties, and the characters (especially Peluchonneau) feel right out of a film noir. His fatal flaw though is that he sees himself as the main character of the story we are watching, which is arrogant. The truth is he is only a bit part, and when this is revealed to him it hits his ego hard.
Neruda is also interesting because he is another egotistical character who fights to be the main character in the story (and really is). He remains in his home country and enjoys the dangers of almost being caught. Even when his fellow party members try to make him realise the dangers, he flaunts them and decides to visit clubs and walk the streets.
Where the lieutenant enjoys his nemesis role though, we see Neruda as a man with a heart. He tries to poetically be the voice of his fellow people, even though as they languish in concentration camps, he still lives in the lap of luxury. In the end though he still have that power of his poetry and is even able to give the young unknown lieutenant the spotlight he so wanted, even not as the main character.
What makes Neruda as a film interesting is that while it may be based on history, it doesn’t really try to be historically accurate. It is a film about the power of poetry and having a voice. It is a film that shows off the beauty of Chile, and uses the landscapes of the country to impressive scales. If you are a fan of film, Neruda is something special, and if you are somebody who just wants to be told a story, give it a chance you may be surprised and like this poetic treasure.
Neruda is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.