Tag Archives: poetry

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

Image result for map of chile

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Four things I didn’t know about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the revered poet of Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan fame:

  1. He had a serious opium addiction for most of his adult life
  2. He travelled throughout the Mediterranean in the early years of the 19th century, mainly to Sicily and Malta, ostensibly for health reasons….but his opium addiction only became more intense
  3. He lived at Nether Stowey in Somerset in 1797-98
  4. The Coleridge Way is a long-distance footpath, covering 51 miles from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth, on the Devon coast

We’ve just got back from a couple of days in Somerset, for the very happy occasion of seeing Mike & Kirsty Dear get married. The wedding was at the Holford Combe Hotel in Holford, but we stayed at the rather splendid The Old House in nearby Nether Stowey.

Gill sorted out the booking and we ended up staying in The Coleridge Suite. STC’s friend and patron Thomas Poole owned the house, and let the poet stay here before he moved into a nearby cottage with his family. The Book Room was where STC, and occasionally his fellow Lakeland poet William Wordsworth and other literary luminaries of the time, would talk and work.

What a pleasure to stay in such a historic and poetic space, and to find out more about STC from the articles and books lying around. The well-thumbed biographies by Richard Holmes – Early Visions (1772-1804) and Darker Reflections (1804-1834) – were particularly informative.

And the day after the wedding, we walked a 3-mile stretch of The Coleridge Way, into the Quantocks ‘twixt Nether Stowey and Holford, on paths oft trod by poetic legends and good friends Coleridge & Wordsworth.

Another thing to add to the Just Retiring list….complete the rest of The Coleridge Way, and find out more about this intriguing character.