Pablo Larrain, he of Jackie fame, returns with a film based loosely around poet Pablo Neruda’s years as a fugitive.
As both a communist and poet in 1948 Chile, Pablo Neruda, played by Luis Gnecco, wasn’t well liked. His extravagant, high-society, champagne life-style no longer sat well, particularly with then-president Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, Alfredo Castro.
Larrain, in his attempt to make a film that is both a biopic and not a biopic, seems to have got a bit lost himself.
We follow Neruda as he goes on the run as communism is outlawed by Videla, who was told to do so by America.
Mainly though we follow the man sent by the president to bring him in, the private investigator, Oscar Pelcuhonneau, Gael Garcia Bernal.
Pelcuhonneau supplies narration at various points in the film, read: most of the film. Some of it is helpful, whilst often-times it’s rambling, incoherent and verging on poetry itself.
Driving sequences are set to obvious back-projection screens. These give the film a strange ‘are we supposed to be finding this funny or not’ vibe that becomes hard to shake throughout.
Neruda himself doesn’t want to run or hide but also doesn’t want to be caught. He taunts his chaser by sending him books and poems in between orgy-scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Casanova movie.
Pelcuhonneau begins to be almost haunted by Neruda’s words. He believes the man knows everything about him, perhaps even created him in some way.
Neruda is all a bit muddled and painfully slow. It’s an arthouse film, without actually being an arthouse film.
It’s an odd, frustrating watch and it is difficult to know what to make of it. I think you will either love it or hate it.