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In the seaside village of Isla Negra (Chile) lives an old and much respected Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda. The villagers are poor people who live simply and ordinarily. Pablo is the only link with a world wider than the village and it is through him that we get to know of the shifts and changes in government and political feeling. Mario, the village postman, only has one regular customer, N. Ruda, so the two get to know one another well. Neruda telling Mario about the world outside, and giving fatherly advice on life and love in general. One day after a trip away, Neruda brings back a record for Mario, which forms one of the happiest and most joyous moments of the film as Mario and Pablo dance and sing along to “Mister Postman” by the Carpenters.
When Mario falls in love with the provocative inn-keeper's daughter Beatrice, he decides that the only way to gain her affection is through poetry. He asks Pablo to write him some verse for the occasion. Beatrice responds and is impressed and falls promptly in love with him. Her mother, on the other hand, is furious. Beatrice is too young to be in love, Mario is the wrong man and poetry is not ever to be trusted. As usual Beatrice is spurred-on by her mother's warnings and seduces Mario in a beachside hut, in a scene that owes much to Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye. Beatrice takes control and the eroticism of their love-making using an egg is fired by her imagination, whilst Mario is slightly overwhelmed and bemused by the ease of the event.
Life outside the village intrudes as Allende becomes President, and sends Neruda to Paris as a diplomat. Missing his own country badly, Neruda sends Mario a parcel, a cassette recorder, so that he can record the sounds of the sea, the birds, the wind, the pebbles, to evoke Isla Negra for him in Paris. The film comes to a close in 1973 as Pinochet stages a military coup; a few days later Neruda dies and Mario is arrested. The film tells two stories and lets them run parallel to one another: Chilean history and the downfall of democracy, and a village love story. As Skarmeta puts it: "My main topic is the little people from the middle or lower class, and their position in crucial historical situations. People with fears and who are apolitical. People who think twice before taking a step This is my subject”.
- Sarah Lloyd