“Neruda”: Apparently I don’t get it

Neruda (1)
A screenshot from the film. COURTESY OF FANDAGO.COM

Probably the best film I will happily never watch again

ROSEMARY SCHWEITZER | schwe035@rangers.uwp.edu

“Neruda” has been a divisive movie since its 2016 release in Chile. Though it has all the hallmarks of a successful thrill-ride, the film also has intense drawbacks that only seasoned film connoisseurs, do not seem to mind. Stunning settings and stirring music are overpowered by flowery dialog and so few likable characters that it should be criminal.

The film revolves around two persons in particular. The first being the poet and communist politician, Pablo Neruda, who is forced to go on the run when President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla outlaws communism in Chile. Neruda is a wholly unpleasant man, who drinks too much and clearly believes himself to be not unlike a god.

The second person is a fictional police detective, Oscar Peluchonneau, that tirelessly chases after Neruda when he is forced to go into hiding. Peluchonneau would be a satisfactory character, where we to not hear his self-aggrandizing inner monologue throughout the duration of the film. Neither character is particularly likable, so by the time I got to the film’s “epic” conclusion (complete with tense orchestral backing and the slowest foot chase to ever take place in fact or fiction), I was begging for the sweet, sweet release of end credits.

To be fair, the relationship between Peluchonneau and Neruda is one of cat and mouse, and it is difficult to discern which is which at various points in the film. The two taunt and toy with each other in a manner reminiscent of Sherlock and Moriarty, even if Neruda seems to be ahead for the majority of the film.

Well, at least someone likes it

“Neruda” has received a fair amount of critical acclaim, with a seven out of ten on IMDb, and a ninety four percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won ten of its forty nominations, most of which were for either Best Foreign Film, Best Art Director, or Best Cinematography. All valid nominations as it was a rather beautiful movie and the directing was (objectively) good, however I do not know if I would say it was the best foreign film of 2016. When compared to the other films in UW-Parkside’s foreign film series this year, it falls somewhat flat for me, and I would rank it third out of the four films I have viewed from the series. The technical merit and beauty, simply could not outweigh the pretension and unnecessary nudity of the film as a whole. Oh, did I not mention the nudity? Do not get me started. Just do not.

Maybe I don’t get it

All things thoroughly considered, I suppose I cannot actually say that I hated the film, but I must be missing something. I acknowledge my seemingly visceral reaction, and perhaps that has to do with my understanding of the larger themes, and if I were to watch it later in life, I would enjoy it. Perhaps if I were a fan of Pablo Neruda’s writing, the plot would interest me. However, I am not, and it does not. Only time will tell.

If you missed Parkside’s run, and I have not scared you off, the film is available on Netflix. Tell me why I am wrong.

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