- No (2012, dir. Pablo Larraín)
An incumbent right-wing government, complacent in its fan-base and control of the media, calls for a nation-wide vote with the sole expectation of consolidating its power. Sound familiar?
When looking for a film to help make sense of the upcoming UK General Election, there are few better thematic starting points than No, Pablo Larraín’s historical biopic about the 1988 Chilean plebiscite. Centring on the advertising strategy behind the ‘No’ campaign, which sought to remove Augusto Pinochet from power, No is a cynical but ultimately optimistic tale of media manipulation at its most consequential.
South American superstar Gael García Bernal plays advertising executive René Saavedra who agrees to help devise the anti-Pinochet campaign’s strategy. Approaching the task with all the substance and appeal of a campaign to sell Pepsi, René steers the ‘No’ campaign to the most unlikely of victories. The morale, we presume, is one of the end axiomatically justifying the means.
“No offers a window into the electric potential of a simple message well-conveyed.”
No is a terrific film. Scripted with real intelligence, and shot with deft direction from Larraín (whose recent output includes this year’s Neruda and the Oscar-nominated Jackie), No excels as history and entertainment both. But more than that, No provides an interesting lens through which to view the upcoming General Election for the UK.
It would be crass and ignorant to equate the murderous dictatorship of Pinochet’s Chile with the spiteful ideology of the Conservative government. Nonetheless, as a study of a seemingly one-sided political race, No offers a window into the electric potential of a simple message well-conveyed. While victory for Jeremy Corbyn seems all but impossible, there are choice topical lessons to be gleamed from a moment in history where mass-market media seemed to embrace its potential.
Image: Sony Pictures Classics