Biopics are a varied genre of filmmaking, and the very action of making one is a grand undertaking. To start from the very start, and wind one’s way to the very end is a fool’s errand in storytelling.
Pablo Larraín’s Neruda concerns itself with a single year in the eponymous poet and communist senator’s life: his exile in Chile in 1948 due to President Gonzalez Videla’s order to outlaw communism, right up to his escape from Chile into Argentina via a treacherous journey through the Andes.
Neruda’s own life reads like one of John Le Carre’s novels, and Larraín’s tribute to the poet through his choice of plot and setting is pitch perfect. In fact, a lot is pitch perfect in this film; the traditional orchestral score (a clear homage to those of film noir); the dappled, intimate cinematography; as well as the measured performances of Luis Gnecco as Neruda, Gael García Bernal as a detective playing cat and mouse with Neruda, and Mercedes Morán as Neruda’s lover Delia del Carril. The script itself is inspired by Neruda’s work; dialogue is savoured, and symbolism is gently drawn from scriptwriter Guillermo Calderón’s empathy for Neruda and the people in his life.
Neruda is thrilling, humorous, and stunning, showing Pablo Larraín’s talent as a storyteller. To extrapolate such beauty from history is an artwork in its own right.