A Chilean Film Leaves Us with a Hedonistic Neruda

Irina Pino

From the movie Neruda.
From the movie Neruda.

HAVANA TIMES — At the recently concluded Havana Film Festival, which has been going on for 38 Decembers now, there was a wide range of movies shown, of all stripes and plots for everybody, although the movie Neruda, from director Pablo Larrain, who gives us a black and white image of this poet and diplomat, really caught my attention.

The plot develops around 1948 during the time that Gonzalez Videla was President, and Neruda’s harsh criticism of him, who he called a “rat” for his flirting with the Nazis. Videla then persecutes Neruda because he belonged to the Communist Party.

The President gave the order to a police commissioner to follow the poet like a watchdog, so that they could lock him up if given the opportunity. This character is mysterious, attractive, he really immerses himself in the poet’s poetry, in his eagerness to investigate Neruda’s personality. From this perspective, he is the most interesting character in the movie.

In the middle of this confusion, Neruda flees with his wife at the time, Delia del Carril, they go into hiding, they change their place of residence, while he writes Canto General, as if it were any text, without passion.

Unfaithful to the extreme, we see the portrayal of a hedonistic Neruda, stuck in brothels and leading orgies with prostitutes. He also attended show business parties where he even used to dress up and put a turban on his head while he recited his poems, as if he were an ordinary loudmouth.

A member of the Communist Party, he nevertheless lived like the bourgeousie. His wife says at one point in the film, that she couldn’t even wash her own underwear.

We don’t get a sense of this touching Neruda who once wrote:

Leaning into the evenings I toss my sad nets to that sea which stirs your ocean eyes 

The night birds peck at the first stars that twinkle like my soul as I love you   

Who calls?  What silence peopled with echoes?   Hour of nostalgia, hour of happiness, hour of solitude, hour that is mine from among them all!

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.  It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent

Tonight I can write the saddest lines…

Although an artist’s reality isn’t a reflection of his work, here his most cynical side is underlined. His negligence when he goes out and gets drunk or visits prostitutes, putting his physical integrity at risk and the way he abuses a young man who looks after him, who is responsible for answering for his life.

Anyway, whether it’s the truth or just fiction, I have to admit that I don’t like this Neruda not one bit.


Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

3 thoughts on “A Chilean Film Leaves Us with a Hedonistic Neruda

  • There’s not much movie-going in the provinces. Havana is Havana, and lots of Habaneros go to the Festival movies. It belies the portrayal of Cuba as North Korea or Stalinist Russia in its attempts to control information and culture.

  • Dear Dan, the film festival is the film festival and that’s it. A few thousand people including may foreigners see the films, the general population doesn’t. The same would go for Snowden, which Vicente Morin critiqued. http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=122554 A scary story of massive US gov. surveillance of citizens and other countries communications. Meanwhile in Cuba the government exercises extensive monitoring of its citizens and nothing is public. Nothing is 100% one way or the other.

  • Wait a minute, this film was shown at the Havana Film Festival ? A film portraying a socialist icon like Neruda in a distinctly unflattering light ? I await the explanation from the usual Cuba bashers as to how and why in the world this could occur within the confines of such a ‘repressive”, “totalitarian” state.

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