Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Colonia: To Be Young, Dumb, and German in Chile
what you will about that old bastard Pinochet, but at least he never foisted a propaganda
movie as lame as this on the film market. Loosely inspired by a very real,
Pinochet-supporting cult, it is “based on a true story” in the way most horror
movies are. Subtlety and context are in short supply throughout Florian
Gallenberger’s Colonia (trailer here), which opens this Friday in
Salvador Allende won a 36% plurality of the vote in Chile’s presidential
election. Almost two-thirds of the country voted against him, but he secured
his victory in Chile’s congress, thanks to the KGB’s money. As his masters
expected, Allende quickly took steps to mold Chile into a Soviet client-state,
alarming the majority of the nation that voted for centrist or center-right
candidates. Eventually, Pinochet came to power through a coup, much like
numerous Latin American autocrats before and since. However, Gallenberger and
co-writer Torsten Wenzel prefer to parrot the Soviet propaganda line claiming Allende
was “for the poor.”
As Colonia opens, German expat Daniel has
bought into the Allende myth hook, line, and sinker. He makes propaganda
posters for the cause when he is not romancing Lena, his vaguely British flight
attendant girlfriend. When things go sour, Daniel is rounded up and shipped off
to Colonia Dignidad, a German-speaking Koresh-ish crypto-Christian commune led
by former National Socialist pedophile Paul Schäfer.
Lena learns Daniel’s torture sessions have been outsourced to Colonia Dignidad,
she goes undercover, hoping to find him. Naturally, they immediately accept
her, despite the fact that she is neither a native Chilean, or as far as we can
tell, of Teutonic extraction. (The film seems to imply she is some sort of
Anglo, which makes the climax even more illogical.) Regardless, Lena starts
snooping around like a much-abused Hester Prynne. She soon spies Daniel, but it
will take a bit of time before he can assure he is only faking brain damage as
a means to fool his interrogators.
Brühl’s performance goes well
past problematic, lurching into genuinely offensive terrain. It is like
watching the most awkward high school dramatic staging of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men ever perpetrated in
public. For the sake of Brühl’s reputation, Gallenberger or one of the producers should have
put a stop to his humiliation.
Michael Nyqvist is just as shticky and over-the-top as Schäfer, but at least he has a
bit of license to chew the scenery as the psycho-Chester Molester. He was such
an entertaining villain in John Wick.
What the heck happened? Arguably, that question applies with even more force to
Gallenberg, whose last feature was the sweeping yet sensitive John Rabe. Of course, it is hardly
shocking to see Emma Watson’s Lena wilting on the screen. Yes, she was in those
Harry Potter films, but are we really sure she’s lead material?
Presumably Colonia was shot in
English to heighten its commercial appeal, but hearing all those German,
Swedish, and British accents mixed and mangled together is more distracting
than subtitled German. Let’s face it, everything about this film is
misconceived. Seriously, do we really even need to revisit 1970s Chile yet again?
As terrible as it was, Pinochet simply made a few thousand political opponents
disappear, while Communist Pol Pot was torturing and killing an estimated
twenty to thirty percent of Cambodia’s total population. However, he shared
Allende’s ideology, so the media still under-reports the scale of the Khmer
Rouge’s crimes against humanity. Colonia is
more of the same, but with a stunningly offensive depiction of the ostensibly
developmentally challenged. Absolutely not recommended, Colonia opens this Friday (4/15) in New York, at the Village East.
Labels: German Cinema, Movie cults