I saw the critically acclaimed film Neruda at a Meetup at the Charles Theatre here in Baltimore on March 5, 2017.

It has been nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film as well as five other awards. Pablo Larraín directed the film.

Gael García Bernal plays the detective searching for the Chilean poet and statesman Pablo Neruda who has gone into hiding because of his communist sympathies. The film is set in 1948. Luis Guecco plays Pablo Neruda.

The film is highly literary in nature which is clearly revealed in the clues Neruda purposefully leaves behind and in the conversation between the detective and Neruda’s second wife. She explains to the detective that in planning his escape Neruda wrote the character of the detective and like every author he controls the destiny of his characters.

The detective asks her if Neruda wrote her character too and she simply answers, “No, I am immortal.” She is immortal because Neruda captured her in his poetry.

The poem most often referred to in the film is commonly known as “Poema XX.” I happily recognized it as the poem my Intermediate I students write about every semester. Their response papers never fail to capture the essence of the poem.

The original version of “Poema XX” and its English translation, can be found in a bilingual edition of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. W.S. Merwin is the translator. The introduction is by Cristina García and the illustrations are by Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Basoalto in 1904. He died in 1973. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.


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