There is something remarkable about that about a film that not only tells the story of a poet but makes the tale poetic.
While the rest of the world seems to be crumbling, Pablo Larraín is having a monster year. The past twelve months have seen the release of not one, not two, but three critically-acclaimed features that he has directed. “The Club,” released stateside in February, was his home country Chile’s submission for last year’s Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards. A mere few weeks ago, his Jackie Kennedy biopic, “Jackie,” found itself in instant awards conversations upon its release. And finally, Larraín slips in one last film before the year’s end with another biopic, “Neruda,” profiling a famed citizen of his own country, the poet Pablo Neruda.
With “Neruda,” like “Jackie,” Larraín chooses to look specifically at a key pivotal moment in the complicated life of a political figure. Neruda (Luis Gnecco), also a member of the Chilean Senate, is a stark critic of president Gabriel González Videla. After denouncing him and his anti-communist policies, Neruda risks his livelihood and goes into hiding for his outspoken views. Soon, he is hunted down by inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), who fervently pursues him for years, while waxing his own bit of poetic sentiments about the state of the country and his place in it.
” “Neruda” further transcends conventions of biopics and storytelling, and may be the most exciting of Larraín’s films thus far.”
On the surface, “Neruda” is not too far removed from Larraín’s higher-profile “Jackie.” Both are rather unconventional glimpses into unconventional figures. The films themselves play with narrative form, in the same way that the characters play with politics and their own public persona. They both feel, at once, impressionistic and expressionistic. Quiet, but loud. Simple, but bursting with intelligent conversation and stimulating ideas that are essential to our current American political climate. “Neruda” further transcends conventions of biopics and storytelling, and may be the most exciting of Larraín’s films thus far.
Perhaps what sets “Neruda” apart not only from “Jackie” but many other biopics is its dexterity in two things. One, of course, is its tone. While its palette is rather dark, it feels light on its feet. Meditative, but present and ready to maneuver through Larraín’s wealth of ideas and inventive form. Like “Jackie,” “Neruda” explores the mythology behind a figure, but where the former can be occasionally heavy-handed, “Neruda” feels less inclined to make statements, but rather reflect. The myth of Pablo Neruda and the facts of Pablo Neruda blur, but that is okay, even in a biopic. There is something remarkable about that about a film that not only tells the story of a poet but makes the tale poetic.