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Colonia: Severe Subject, Damp Dramatics

  • Daniel BrühlDaniel Bruhl...
  • DramaRomance
  • Florian Gallenberger
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Colonia: Severe Subject, Damp Dramatics

Drawing its inspiration from a disturbing chapter in Chilean history, Florian Gallenberger’s Colonia tells of Colonia Dignidad; a cult-run commune located in an isolated patch of the country, that was used as a torture centre for political prisoners during Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 military coup, but does so in a flaccid manner – what should be a story of courage and humanity lacks one essential element: gravity.

The film follows the story of Lufthansa flight-attendant, Lena (Watson), and graphic designer-turned-political activist, Daniel (Bruhl), who find themselves trapped in Chile just as the coup begins to unfold. It’s not long, however, before the couple is picked up by Pinochet’s forces with Lena soon getting released and Daniel – who gets identified as a poster-maker for President Allende’s camp –  taken away to Colonia Dignidad; a well-known torture centre for political prisoners.  Unable to get the help from any of Daniel’s friends, Lena soon takes it upon herself to infiltrate the camp and rescue her lover.

One of the main problems with the film is that it seemingly ignores the intricate details of the coup, instead choosing to concentrate on the workings of the infamous camp which during that time was posing as a religious and agricultural settlement. There’s not enough context drawn from the coup, leaving what is portrayed of the camp unfocused; Run by an ex-Nazi paedophile that goes by the name of Pious (played by the committed eerie Nyqvist) the horrors of the camp never fully register. We know this is a bad place, but the film never really fully imparts that sense on the viewer.

Both leads are doing the best that they can with the poorly-conceived material and they’re not really ever given a chance to bring anything noteworthy to the performance. The musical score is overbearing and the movie’s glossy sheen – despite the gruesomeness of its subject – makes it hard to take anything seriously. There's just not enoigh intelligence or sophistication in the storytelling to lead to an affective emotional pay-off.

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360 Tip

Evidence has been presented that Josef Mengele – better known as the ‘Angel of Death’ for his lethal experiments on human subjects during WWII – has been known to have lived and worked at the Colony.

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