Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Another robust and inventive drama from Pablo Larraín (No, VIFF 12; The Club, VIFF 15), Neruda, set in 1948 Chile, is more about the transformative possibilities of art and the power of cinematic storytelling than it is a biopic of the great poet, politician and diplomat Pablo Neruda (played here by Luis Gnecco). In fact, while the spirit of the poet hovers over every frame of the film, Neruda, the personage, takes a back seat to Gael García Bernal’s terrific performance as Oscar Peluchonneau, a somewhat inept yet self-aggrandizing police detective who, Javert-like, makes it his mission to hunt down Neruda once the poet is forced into hiding due to his communist beliefs. That we are never sure of Peluchonneau’s reliability as a guide through the proceedings is a deliberate strategy, as is the complex depiction of Neruda—the man is not accorded saint-like status by any means. For Larraín, the mere facts are secondary to the film artist’s ability to create worlds, and to celebrate the power of art. It is, after all, the poetry that really matters.
"Surprises always come at the end of Pablo Larraín’s films, when everything suddenly comes together and the audience sits in the cinema feeling both illuminated and floored. Neruda is no different, representing the director at his stunning best with a work of such cleverness and beauty, alongside such power, that it’s hard to know how to parcel out praise: script, cinematography, art direction and performances all vie for kudos and awards…"—Jay Weissberg, Variety