Lena and Daniel, a young couple become entangled in the Chilean military coup of 1973. Daniel is abducted by Pinochet's secret police and Lena tracks him to a sealed off area in the South of the country, called Colonia Dignidad. The Colonia presents itself as a charitable mission run by lay preacher Paul Schäfer but, in fact, is a place nobody ever escaped from. Lena decides to join the cult in order to find Daniel. Based on true events.Written by
Colonia Dignidad was a real-life secret detention camp. See more »
After the meeting with the German ambassador Lena calls the Ritz hotel to contact the pilot of the Lufthansa crew she was member. But on the seventies there was no Ritz hotel in Santiago. The first one was opened in Las Condes neighborhood, far away from downtown in 2002. See more »
[voice over original documentary footage]
Santiago de Chile, 1973. Politial riots have been destabilizing the entire country.
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True Nature Gives It The Gravitas It Needs To Be Successful
If one were to judge "Colonia" purely on face value, it would be an average film. It jumps around a bit, doesn't have a clear narrative, and doesn't really even have all that much resolution. When you consider that it is based on true events, however, it needs to be judged in that capacity. With that in mind, "Colonia" becomes a much more experience considering they had to keep somewhat on track with the real life events.
For a basic plot summary, this movie tells the story of Lena (Emma Watson) & Daniel (Daniel Bruhl), two young adults who happen to get caught up in General Pinochet's military coup of Chile (both were protesting against that very action). Daniel is sent away to some sort of cultish camp (Colonia Dignidad) which is led by the brutal and enigmatic Paul Schafer (Michael Nyqvist). Lena volunteers for the women's section of the cult/camp, experiencing similar horrors of her own in order to track Daniel down and hope to come up with an escape plan.
Probably the biggest "knock" I'd have on this film is that parts of it really don't make sense (and really don't even try to). In film-making convention, that is kind of a no-no. You never really understand the motivations behind some of the characters or the things that happen.
At the same time, though, that is a large part of why this movie can be quite effective when looked through a different lens...that of reality. One of the characters, a fellow cult member to Lena, utters a quote along the lines of "don't try to make sense of this place...you never will". That's what the viewer has to do when watching this movie, too. Instead of dissecting it, this is one of those movies where you just have to sit back and allow yourself to think "this was actually a real place". Once you see what happened inside the walls of the cult, that thought alone will make you shudder.
It helps, of course, that the acting is mostly spot-on. Watson is perfect, as usual (it's too bad she is taking a bit of a sabbatical these days, as her work is always stellar), and Schafer's character is legitimately creepy. Plus, there is just an air of weirdness and mystery surrounding the entire project that gives it a great sense of foreboding and tension.
Overall, I enjoyed watching "Colonia" as much for its uniqueness and "true story" nature (especially one I had never heard of before) as anything else. Like I said, if you critique it on "script cohesiveness" alone it might come up lacking, but once you let the gravitas of its real-life events sink in I think it will move you to care about the characters and their situations.
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