Tag Archives: chile

Review of Neruda – a cinematic trip to Chile

Here is my published review of the film Neruda, on TripFiction:

Neruda (a cinematic trip to Chile), in cinemas 7 April 2017 #nerudafilm

If truth be told, I don’t get quite as excited by poetry as I do by a good novel, or by a film. Or by travel, for that matter.

But Pablo Neruda somehow transcends poetry, and a special screening by the BFI of a film by celebrated Chilean director Pablo Larrain about an intriguing episode in Naruda’s life was too good an opportunity to miss. And I have always been interested by Chile since watching Missing, a 1982 film about the coup of 1973, launched almost on the exact same day that Neruda died.

a cinematic trip to chile

Why special? An introduction by Adam Feinstein, author of the first English language biography of Neruda, provided perfect context for when and where the film slotted into the complex life of the Nobel prize-winning poet. And animated recitals of several of Neruda’s poems by actors – in Spanish by Jorge de Juan, with English translations performed by Nickolas Grace – offered a glimpse into the prodigious creative output of the poet.

The film covers a 13-month period from 1948-49. At the outset, Neruda is a Communist party senator in the country’s riven government, speaking out loudly against the right-wing President’s increasing oppression of workers and unions. Neruda and his Argentinian wife Delia enjoy a somewhat elitist and sybaritic lifestyle, but that all changes when the poet is forced underground to avoid arrest and potential assassination.

Moving from house to house, thanks to support from Communist party supporters, Neruda’s reputation as The People’s Poet is cemented through his increasingly radical social poems, mocking the government and rallying workers.

But this is far from being a biopic. In fact the director himself calls Neruda an anti-biopic. Larrain intentionally blurs fact with fiction, creating a cat-and-mouse story between the poet and his police pursuer, Oscar Pelucchonneau. Pablo somehow always manages to stay just one verse ahead of Oscar, leaving poems for the hapless policeman to ponder.


But what is real and what is imagined?

Beautifully filmed, Neruda is an intoxicatingly original concoction of genres….film noir, road movie, thriller, love story, parable. Take your pick.

In a cinematically epic finale, the policeman finally closes in on the poet in the snowy landscape of the Lilpela Pass, high in the Andes, as Neruda has been forced to flee from his home country to Argentina. But who is really the hero?

Luis Gnecco perfectly captures the flawed Neruda. A poetic genius? Definitely. Hero of the people? Probably. Arrogant, debauched and selfish? Maybe.

Gael Garcia Bernal almost steals the film as the nuanced Pelucchonneau, in many ways purer of spirit than his quarry, fedora tilted over his lean, noirish face. If only he were real…..

But there is one certainty: this luscious and thought-provoking film has cemented my desire to travel to Chile. And to read more poetry.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

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Travelling to C-lands

So what is it with all these C countries?

Just back from an amazing trip to Costa Rica, and I’m reflecting that most of the other places I’d like to explore next also begin with C.

Go figure, as our friends from across the pond might say….

Colombia. Everyone’s immediate reaction is ooooh, that’s really dangerous, isn’t it? Medellin. Cocaine. Pablo Escobar. You’ll die. Well, no….it’s a beautiful country, tourism is booming and the drug wars have sort of moved to Mexico. Sort of.

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Chile. The 1982 movie Missing left a deep impression on me. I might miss the sports stadium in Santiago – where the dead bodies of anti-government activists were stacked up – but the wine district, the Atacama desert, the Andes and the wonders of Patagonia make this long, skinny country an alluring mix of extremes.

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Cuba. I’ve always wanted to spend time in crumbling Havana, following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and drinking rum in backstreet bars. Or cycling in the tobacco fields of Vinales, and moving to the salsa rhythm in Santiago. But I’d better do it quickly, before Fidel finally snuffs it and Cuba becomes another US fiefdom.

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Cambodia. The power of movies again…who could ever forget The Killing Fieldsthe 1984 film in which an American journalist gets caught up with Pol Pot’s reign of terror. These days, the country is another tourism hot-spot with attractions such as Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Indochinese cuisine, and of course the bone-chilling Killing Fields monument of Choeung Ek.

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I guess China should be on the list too, but let’s get these four other Cs sorted first.

And in the meantime there’s always Canterbury, Carmarthen, Cork…..and Glasgow.