Friday, March 23, 2018

Review of Neruda

I saw the movie Neruda last night. I was asked to give some introductory remarks as part of an international film festival on campus. I talked briefly about Chilean politics mid-century and how political Pablo Neruda was.

The film, in fact, is about how he went into hiding and then exile after the Law for Permanent Defense of Democracy outlawed the Communist Party and led to his arrest warrant. Director Pablo Larraín does not bother with a straight biography, but instead has Neruda leading an introspective police inspector on a wild goose chase, leaving copies of crime novels for him to find, which taunt the inspector since he knows he just missed him. I thought it was great. We see Neruda as an ardent communist who is viewed suspiciously by rank-and-file communists, who don't have access to the movie, women, wine, and influence that he has. But they still respect him for giving them an international voice through poetry. We see Chile struggling with political polarization (there is even a cameo by Augusto Pinochet at a prison camp) and the curious mix within Neruda of political fervor, love of luxury, and creativity. Many scenes bent reality (e.g. urinals inside the Senate chambers where everyone was eating, drinking, and debating?) but it all came together nicely.


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