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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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“Neruda” combines fantasy and reality

Photo by Creative Commons

Chilean director Pablo Larrain undertakes the difficult task of presenting the political exile of the internationally famous poet, Pablo Neruda in “Neruda.”
The film successfully finds a balance of fiction and reality throughout the sensational life of its titular character. The film begins in 1948 when the Chilean government bans communism and places many communist sympathizers into concentration camps. The protagonist Neruda was forced into hiding with his wife, Delia. The story then seems to spiral down into a dark game of cat and mouse between Neruda and his pursuer, Óscar Peluchonneau.
The film itself has an interesting amount of fiction woven into the reality of the events in the story. Larrain and his screenwriter, Guillermo Calderón, masterfully include fantastical elements in order to deconstruct the enigma of Neruda’s psyche. The most notable of these elements include the fictitious manhunt when Neruda went into hiding. The focal point of the film rests on Neruda remaining, almost comically at times, one step ahead of his police pursuer.
I was particularly captured by the powerhouse performance of Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays the role of Peluchonneau, a young aspiring police officer looking to make a name for himself by capturing the famous fugitive. Bernal is simply spectacular in the role. Even though his character never actually existed in reality, Bernal brings a genuine sense of humanity to his character. This role also proved the brilliant acting range of Bernal.
Bernal has worked with many internationally renowned hispanic filmmakers, Alfonso Cuarón in “Y tu Mama Tambien” and Pedro Almodovar in “La Mala Educación,” but his work in this film is much more grim compared to his other roles.
Larrain’s depiction of Neruda is quite interesting to dissect. Larrain uses the poetry by Neruda at the time of his exile to dive into the complexity of his mind.
While political dramas may be unappealing to some audiences, Larrain’s direction really gives this genre film a mysterious aura throughout. Larrain turns what is mostly a stale, formulaic genre into a thriller.
Neruda is certainly worth the viewing. Even with the limitations of the genre, Larrain delivers an immensely entertaining story. Larrain’s film plays out similar to an episode of The Twilight Zone in that it takes comfort in the space between reality and fantasy and perfectly each of these elements.
This film will be presented by the Texas A&M University Hispanic Department as a part of their Hispanic Film Series on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. in Harrington Education Center (HECC) room 100.

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