Neruda is a wry detective story

Neruda is a 2016 fictional biography of Pablo Neruda by Chilean director Pablo Larraín. Chile’s submission for the 2017 Academy Awards stars Gael García Bernal as a detective searching for Neruda in 1940s Chile.

Neruda in New York City

Neruda opened at Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center, Friday, December 16 and played at IFC Center through March 16, 2017. Get tickets at www.FilmLinc.org/films/neruda/ or www.IFCcenter.com

About Neruda

Pablo Larraín’s Neruda is very much a fiction, not a biography, but it is set in the time in 1948 when Neruda was hiding for his life in Chile.

Chilean actor Luis Gnecco stars as Pablo Neruda. Mexican actor Gael García Bernal stars as Oscar Peluchoneau, a detective searching for the poet. Argentine actress Mercedes Morán plays Neruda’s Argentine wife Delia del Carril.

The heart of Chilean screenwriter Guillermo Calderón’s story is detective Peluchoneau’s obsession with capturing Neruda.

Larraín himself describes the movie as a “Nerudean” portrait. It is that. It is a detective fiction that is a beautifully shot period piece filled with romantic colors and metaphors that say a lot without saying it directly.

Neruda is in Spanish and French with English subtitles. It premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and was selected for the Telluride, Toronto, and the New York Film Festivals. Neruda is the Chilean submission for the 2017 Academy Awards.

About Pablo Neruda

The great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was a historical character. His first book Crepusculario (Book of Twilights, 1923) and his second 20 poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, 1924) made Neruda a literary star when he was just 20 years old.

Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos,
te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega.
Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you,
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

1st Stanza of “Cuerpo de Mujer” ~ Neruda (1924), Translation W.S. Merwin

Neruda was a Chilean diplomat. He was also a member of the Chilean Communist Party. His poetry made him a very famous communist. In 1948 communism was outlawed in Chile and an arrest warrant was issued for Neruda. He went into hiding with his wife for a over a year and then fled the country into exile.

[Note:] It is discomforting to label anyone a communist these days. Anti-communist efforts have probably done more damage to humanity than communists themselves.

Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was an advisor to Chile’s socialist President Salvador Allende. It is believed that Neruda was murdered in 1973 by agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

On a personal note, Neruda is the writer who made me fall in love with the Spanish language. I learned about him from a movie. Il Postino is a 1994 Italian film that is also a fictional biography loosely about the great poet. It is about Neruda’s exile in Italy. In the story, a young villager delivers Neruda’s mail and uses Neruda’s poetry to seduce a beautiful young lady. There is a lovely scene where Neruda dances a Tango with his wife. After seeing the movie, I got a book of Neruda’s poetry and fell in love with the rich colors of his words, his metaphors. Ten years later I found myself involved in the Latin world. Shortly thereafter I entered the Tango world. This led me to here. Sometimes poetry becomes life.


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