Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Neruda - at the HEART centre

Sally Bavage writes:
Do you like Marmite?  It seems most of the audience did at last night's showing of Neruda, a 2016 film nomimated for a Golden Globe award in 2017 and winner of the Fenix Award for Best Fictional film in 2016.  The clue is in the last award title.  This is a mixture of fictional film noir and a biopic, not a straightforward genre.  It has garnered many 4* reviews, but a few reviewers were less enthusiastic.  What is it about this film that generates a divide of opinions?

It deals with events in 1948 when Chilean politician Ricardo Baoalto, a staunch Communist with a flair for writing in a variety of styles, including the surreal and the overtly political and - under his pen name of Pablo Neruda - love poetry both tender and sensual.  A case of poetic licentiousness.

His work inspired huge devotion from many oppressed workers and after an warrant was issued for his arrest, he was kept moving and in hiding for months with help from sympathisers.  He eventually escaped across the Andes into Argentina.  It is these events in his life with which the  film plays. 

He is pursued by an archetypal policeman, out to achieve glory and enhance his self-respect.  Or is he?  How much is fantasy is left for you the viewer to decide.  How much does Neruda need the excitement and challenge of being hunted to keep his rage poems flowing and his commitment to the cause strong?  The dialogue contains many snatches of Neruda's writing, both poetic and polemic – you are constantly lulled into believing in his affairs until you realise that perhaps all is not as it seems.  Again.

Are you asked to like Neruda?  Yes and no.  His writing is inspirational but he is also portrayed as an egotistical snob who mistreats his wife (by today's standards, anyway).  What you would undoubtedly like is his real-life commitment to social justice as well as his poetry.  A close adviser to President Allende when he returned from exile to Chile shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, he was in hospital being treated for cancer when General Pinochet's coup d'etat  murdered Allende.  

Neruda discharged himself early from hospital as he suspected he was being poisoned by a doctor on the orders of the new regime.  He died hours later.  It was only in 2015 that the Chilean government acknowledged that it was “clearly possible and highly likely” that he was killed.  Same old same old then, if you read this week's news about Sergei Shrikal.

I really like Marmite.  And this film.  I urge you to see it if only to make your own mind up.

Audience Comments

I loved the hunt and the scenes through the snow and I found out more about Neruda.  I expect it was partly about magic realism and the need to engage with fantasy in such a difficult country politically

Did not like it at all but all films cannot be good.  Usually films at Heart are great

Excellent film, not widely shown

Interesting: know more, but unclear overall; good in parts

Very puzzling but strangely engaging

Quite gripping but totally baffling

An amazing film – completely surreal but gripping

Strange but engaging film.  I knew very little about the true s tory and am not sure if I know much more now!  Films@Heart have a great set-up

Not convinced about this film … still, how many films are made about poets?  Glad I've seen it

Fascinating film – so glad I have seen it

The sound was terrible I had to read subtitles because the Spanish was so unclear, and it is my language

Tended to induce nodding off

Haunting.  Very glad to see it

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