It’s been 5 years since the final Harry Potter film which launched its star careers with Daniel Radcliffe going onto success with ‘The Woman in Black’, Emma Watson in ‘The Bling Ring’ & ’This is the End’ and Rupert Grint in um….um… eeerrrr…some other films. This week’s new release is ‘The Colony’ starring Watson as an airline stewardess caught up in the military coup led by psychotic geriatric Chilean dictator General Pinochet. The regime and ‘the mothers of the disappeared have been brilliantly covered before by the Oscar winning ‘Missing’ in 1982 but this covers a far lesser known aspect of the regime.
Watson lands in Chile to meet her new boyfriend Daniel(Daniel Bruhl) a political activist and a few days of being lovey-dovey are ruined by the military coup and they flee the soldiers with Daniel unwisely deciding to take photos of the brutality only for the pair of them to be rounded up and him carted off to be tortured. Watson, desperate to find him, is told that he’s at the infamous Colonia Dignidad, a base for a religious cult led by Paul Shafer (Michael Nyqvist) a real life leader who rules with brutality towards his followers . His regime inside the camp is as brutal as the one outside led by Pinochet and the comparison with Nazi camps is obvious with barking Dobermans, sparse wooden huts to live in and the perimeter surrounded by electric fences and guard towers. With male, female and children all kept separate from each other the pair covertly meet up and plan their escape.
This is one of those ’inspired by real events’ films and it’s Oscar winning writer/director Florian Gallenberger has done much research to uncover what went on at the notorious Colonia and it is horrifying what went on there. Just how it remained secret from the outside world is shocking with perhaps the biggest surprise is that it’s now a hotel and it would be hard to for anyone to stay there knowing the full extent of the brutality that went on. Nyqvist is terrific in the role as the cult leader with his greasy grey mullet haircut and his queasy claim to be able to ‘smell the devil’ in women is chilling and his almost medieval brutality, especially towards women, is almost unbelievable if it wasn’t for the end credits revealing that Schafer’s behaviour was only to real and went on to include the abuse of the children there too. His cohort Gisela (Richenda Carey) is equally fastidious in her commitment to the cult freely offering up the women in her charge to Schafer for punishment and scenes where his subjugation of women in a room full of baying males is uneasy viewing .
Much like her Harry Potter co star Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson has endeavored to distance herself from her role in that franchise and this is a film that is far from fluffy. Daniel Bruhl who always raises the game in films such as ‘Rush’ and ‘Inglorious Basterds’ has a role which some may take offence at as here he affects being ‘retarded’ after the electro shock torture he’s endured to ensure that he is not further victimised. An accusation of this being crassly insensitive has been leveled at the film but that is unfair as this is well intentioned and though there is a bit of box office appeasement in its ‘will they or wont they escape’ finale this is a compelling yet alarming film none more so than its closing titles showing photos of the real life Colonia and details of those who suffered there as well as the fate of Paul Schafer.
The director Florian Gallenberger spoke about the film at a screening and you can hear more about what went on at the colony on our You Tube channel.
Here’s the trailer: