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Neruda - Film Review

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by Georgina Tselekidis (subscribe)
Freelancer and aspiring journalist from Adelaide. Visual Arts graduate & current journalism student. Fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, art & food. I also write for The Adelaidian //
Published May 26th 2017
Neruda is an incredible construction of fact vs fiction
"Tonight I can write the saddest lines. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too" - Pablo Neruda.

After watching the trailer for Neruda, I knew I was in for a treat. This South American film is an unconventional drama and romance, with thrilling suspense that takes its viewer along the journey of the Chilean poet's life.

Maybe you've never heard of poet, politician and diplomat Pablo Neruda, but by the end of this film, you'll feel like you've known him all along. Neruda became a fugitive in his own country for his Communist leanings during the 1940s, and the viewer is introduced to this situation from the get-go. Set in Santiago in 1940, at the beginning of the cold war, Neruda (Luis Gnecco) goes into hiding with his aristocratic Argentinian wife Delia del Carril (Mercedes Moran), assisted by fellow members of the Communist Party, where we begin to transition into a very interesting timeline of Pablo's life that is a mix between reality, fantasy and imagination.

Director Pablo Larrain and screenwriter Guillermo Calderón, find a riveting form of story telling and narration through Peluchonneau, played impressively by Gael Garcia Bernal. Voice-over is a nice touch here, as we're guided through the beautiful poetic sequences that make up this artistic drama. I won't lie, this film is a tad confusing, but it works. Larrain implements this technique in a way that differs from many of its foreign film counterparts, as we question why this 'other' character is telling us this story, instead of Neruda himself. Only we learn that Neruda has created him as a son of a prostitute, chief of police and detective who loves detective fiction and whose purpose is to hunt down the poet in exile. But, as we delve deeper, the purpose of Peluchonneau goes further than mere narration.

We see the effect of Neruda's writing on others, and begin to appreciate the function of art even more. An emotional scene features a drag queen from a brothel explaining to Peluchonneau how Neruda manages to bring about a sense of passion and self-worth that cannot be easily found elsewhere. The camera focuses on his distressed face covered in sweat, tears and smudged makeup, smoking a cigarette, where a sense of sadness and heartache speaks. But as he describes Neruda to Peluchonneau, the viewer is simultaneously confronted by the underlying fragility and beauty that exists behind this man's soul. We're reminded from this very moment that words have the power to change lives.

Mixing elements of film noir, it's like we are thrown in the midst of a tension-filled plot loaded with anticipation and an opposing sense of ease, with sound and cinematography adding to Peluchonneau's chase, building up to the final peak. Short cut scenes between characters conversing quicken the speed of their interactions, yet silent moments intertwined with simple sets and some slow stills get the audience eager to see what's next. And to our surprise, there is always something happening next.

The abrupt realism flows in and out of the story, and we're left with a very complex and multi-layered piece that might need to be watched more than once to fully get. Above all, the performance by Bernal as Peluchonneau cannot be faulted as he lures us into his fabricated life that feels so real, perhaps because we can somehow relate to Peluchonneau's desperate longing to be recognised and appreciated. This film only adds to Bernal's already impressive acting repertoire. Likewise, Moran as Delia manages to pull at our heart strings with her powerful presence on screen and vibrant love and loyalty to her man Pablo Naruda, who is adored by many ladies.Luis Gnecco as Neruda bears an uncanny resemblance to the poet who balances every aspect of the character remarkably, which can be difficult when referencing such an iconic and renowned figure. All the characters meld into one another to form the vessel of the film.

I guess at the end of it all, we are reminded that art in many forms has the power to transform our world and that some stories need to be told in different ways to be understood. And that's what art does. It fills us up and educates us through a variety of mediums.

Neruda is currently playing at Palace Nova Cinemas, Adelaide.
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When: Currently playing at Palace Nova in Adelaide
Phone: 8232 3434
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