A young woman's desperate search for her abducted boyfriend that draws her into the infamous Colonia Dignidad, a sect nobody ever escaped from.
ActorsStarring: Daniel Brühl, Emma Watson, Michael Nyqvist, Julian Ovenden, Martin Wuttke, Vicky Krieps, August Zirner, Katharina Müller-Elmau, Johannes Allmayer, Paul Herwig
The Colonia Dignidad (‘Colony of Dignity’) was a religious cult in Chile, led from 1961 by Paul Schaefer, a fugitive from Germany following accusations of child molestation. The Colonia Dignidad was shrouded in secrecy, with up to 300 residents living in the colony behind barbed wire, working mainly as farmers, and never allowed to leave the colony. The men were separated from the women, and the children separated from their parents. Whilst trying to portray an image of peace and order to the outside world, over the years it has become clear that Schaefer was an abusive, authoritarian tyrant, and the colony suffered daily incidents of torture, (child) rape, and other forms of physical and mental abuse as a means of ‘spiritual growth’. As Pinochet came to power in the 1970s, he sometimes sent dissidents to the Colonia for torturing and imprisonment. There is evidence from the CIA and Simon Wiesenthal that the Nazi Angel of Death, Joseph Mengele, has spent time at the Colony as well.
Shocking and fascinating in a way is that even after Pinochet was overthrown, and after decades of slowly growing evidence of what was going on behind the barbed wire, the Colonia Dignidad was only invaded by the Chilean government in 2005.
The movie Colonia tells a fictional story in this historically real torture cult. The movie is ‘inspired by real events’ and this is probably its greatest weakness. If you go into it expecting an expose of the Colonia Dignidad, you will be disappointed. If you go into it expecting a thriller, it is quite decent.
Lena (Emma Watson) is a Lufthansa stewardess, arriving in Chile for a few days’ stay where she meets up with her photographer and Allende supporter boyfriend Daniel (Daniel Bruehl). When the next day Pinochet overthrows the government, Daniel gets rounded up and deported. Lena soon founds out he has been taken to the Colonia Dignidad, a place no-one ever returns from… Lena travels to the Colonia and joins up voluntarily, hoping to find Daniel and then a way to escape together. As the men and women are strictly separated in the Colonia, it takes months before they even catch a glimpse of each other.
For an expose of the Colonia, the movie is too focused on the (fictional) love story of Lena and Daniel, and the storyline and key plot elements to force things along feel a bit too contrived. It doesn’t feel it does the hundreds of victims of the Colonia between 1961 and 2005 a lot of justice. On the other hand, as a thriller it is a very watchable movie and through the story of Daniel and Lena exposes enough of the Colonia to raise awareness of the much larger atrocities that happened there for decades. Worth seeing in my opinion, if not a great movie.