Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Neruda [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
FilmAffinity.com/es listing*
CineChile.cl listing*

Official website

El Agente de Cine (A. García) review*
ElMostrador.cl (V. Minué Maggiolo) review*
LaNacion.cl review*
LaTercera.com (J. García) review*

Neruda [2014] [IMDb] [FAes]* [CCh.cl]* (screenplay and directed by Manuel Basoalto [IMDb] [FAes]* [CCh.cl]*) is an beautifully shot (the outdoor vistas are often spectacularly beautiful) CHILEAN film / period piece about the 1948-49 flight into exile -- 13 months from house-to-house, town-to-town, eventually on horseback over the Andes Mountains from Chile to Argentina -- of Chilean Poet / ever Leftist-then-Communist Politician later Nobel Prize for Literature winning Pablo Neruda [es.wikip]*[en.wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb-Char] (played in the film by José Secall [IMDb] [FAes]* [CCh.cl]*).  The film played recently at the 2015 - 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival.

The director, Basoalto [IMDb] [FAes]* [CCh.cl]* had already completed a documentary series a number of years previous about Neruda's famous escape, but believed, rightly IMHO, that the subject matter deserved treatment as a biopic as well.

The reason for Neruda's need to flee Chile was of course political.  Some background:

Born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto "in the provinces" (in Parral, Chile) he began using the pseudonym Pablo Neruda after he left at sixteen for Santiago the Capital to study (French was his major) at the University of Chile.  His father was apparently opposed to "his wasting his time with writing poetry." So publishing poems under a pseudonym allowed him to publish without his father's knowledge.  And a poet he became!  By eighteen he published his famous Twenty Poems of Love and A Song of Despair (orig. Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada) [1923] [GR-eng] [GR-esp] [WCat-eng] [WCat-esp] [Amzn-eng] [Amzn-esp].  By 20 he was arguably world-renowned -- as a poet!  Yet, he was also penniless.

So Neruda took a job in the Chilean diplomatic corps, serving first in then British India (in Burma and Ceylon) and eventually "moved up" to serve IN SPAIN just as the Spanish Civil War was about to begin.  That's where he got radicalized and became a lifelong Communist / Communist apologist.

After serving also in Mexico and then Paris, he eventually came back to Chile and in 1945 was elected to serve as Senator.  (It is at this point, Neruda's return to Chile and election to the Chilean Senate, that the film begins).

In 1946, Neruda was asked to serve as the CAMPAIGN MANAGER for Gabriel González Videla [en.wikip] [es.wikip]* who was running for Chilean President as part of a coalition of left-wing political parties (which the Communists were a part). 

HOWEVER soon after getting elected, Videla, expelled the Communist Party from the ruling Coalition and then pushed through the Chilean Congress a McCarthy-like law called the Law for the Permanent Defense of Democracy [en.wikip] [es.wikip]*, which among other things banned the Communist Party in Chile.  Why would Videla do this, after having Neruda, a Communist after all, ACTUALLY LEAD HIS CAMPAIGN is still fodder for dispute.  However it's assumed that pressure probably came from the United States to do so (as the Cold War was just beginning). 

In any case, in the tradition of the famous J'Accuse letter written by French writer Emile Zola in defense of Alfred Dreyfus in the 1898 French Dreyfus Affair, on January 6, 1948 Pablo Neruda -- AND THIS WAS SHOWN VERY DRAMATICALLY IN THE FILM -- rose to give his own "I Accuse" (orig. "Yo Acuso") speech in the Chilean Senate, where quoting Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 Four Freedoms speech -- where FDR postulated the Universality of the Freedom of Speech, the Freedom of Worship, the Freedom from Want, and the Freedom from Fear --  Neruda accused Videla's law of violating Chileans' rights to both the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom from Fear.

After giving the speech, since the Communist Party was already banned, Neruda had to go into hiding and the rest of the film followed...

The rest of the film includes then the process of Neruda's escape, again involving moving from safe-house to safe-house and eventually going by horseback over the Andes and into Argentina.  The film also includes reminiscences from Neruda's childhood (again he was born "in the mountains / provinces") and reminders of Neruda's continued writing during this time of escape.  During the Q&A with the director of the film, present at its screening here at the 2015 Chicago Latino Film Festival, the director noted that Neruda wrote his Canto General (1950) [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] "while on the run" at this time.

All in all, this is a very well done Chilean film about probably the most renowned Chilean who ever lived.


* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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