DVD review: Neruda (4 out of 5)

Luis Gnecco as Pablo Neruda
Luis Gnecco as Pablo Neruda

It’s three years after the Second World War and Chile has joined the anti-communist sentiment that pervaded large parts of the world at the time.

Pablo Neruda, a poet-diplomat, is a staunch communist and his poems and other work are a talisman for free thinking people.

So a warrant goes out for his arrest and he is forced into hiding.

On his trail is police prefect Óscar Peluchonneau, a man with a very humble background who is determined to do his duty.

But what could have been a straightforward chase movie is given far more depth by director Pablo Larraín, best known perhaps for the excellent recent movie Jackie.

Larrain uses the poetic side of Neruda to create an elegiac film about beliefs, and examine what drives men and women to follow various paths in life.

Luis Gnecco plays Neruda and looks incredibly similar to the man himself.

He shows the poet to be a man aware of his own importance, leaving clues around the country for the police to find.

But it’s Gael García Bernal as Peluchonneau who ends up stealing the show with an excellent portrayal of an obsessive man trying to survive in a sea of political and social change.

Considering the massive army and police crackdown on dissidents at the time, there’s very little violence shown - perhaps to make some of the final scenes all the more dramatic.

But most chilling is a glimpse at an internment camp of one Augusto Pinochet.

Overall, this is a fascinating study by a master of his art.

Neruda is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital from 10th July.