Colonia full movie review - Uneven but complain gloom at political perversion
SUMMARY: Colonia presents a compelling portrait of two people caught in the ideological chess match played out in Chile by communism, democracy and the aftermath of WW II.
Chile became a battleground for the ideologies of fascism, communism and US-style democracy. Thus you have the fertile mix of governmental change, ideological interference by the reigning superpowers, hidden liberties taken by fascists now enjoying tropical weather and a youth movement that believed change would be allowed without consequences.
Into this historically true environment walk Lena (a flight attendant for Lufthansa Airlines) and Daniel (a cloudy-backgrounded German supporting the youth activists of Salvadore Allende). He's political and more than a foreign functionary but well less a true revolutionary or martyr (and here in lies the first of the uneven story lines). The first time we see these two, Lena's just finished her shift on an in-bound flight to surprise her boyfriend. Abandoning her co-workers to their hotel, she tells them she'll meet them in four days for the flight out.
She doesn't make the plane. Paralleling the real events, Daniel is warned about the military coup and they are swept up in the martial law events that occur during the first 24-48 hours following the coup (another unevenness relating to WHY they draw attention to themselves). Daniel is taken to the facility for which the film is named: "Colonia" - The Colony. Lena is released.
She seeks assistance in finding and retrieving her lover from the group he'd been associated with only to find the Chilean youths are hunkering down to "fight the bigger fight" now that Allende has been assassinated. Lena is alone in her decision to rescue Daniel.
After a brief set of visits to unseen organizations, she finally gets some info and determines he's been sent to the Colony - a quasi-religious enclave run by an ex-pat German in the hills. Suffice it to say this is like every one of these isolationist extremist compounds where some "leader" paints himself as God-on- Earth and takes associated liberties.
Without giving too much away, Lena integrates herself into the life that isn't life while searching for Daniel. Daniel is tortured; his future behavior comes as a direct result of his torture.
Leading this is Pius. This character, while fictionalized, actually ran the real- world compound. There are men, women and children in this "retreat" - all held separately. Pius meets with them individually, as evidenced by a young boy who leaves Pius' office with silent tears raining down his cheeks (the implication is confirmed in a shower hymn sing- along). Brutality and sexual dominance keep inhabitants in line. Pius, as portrayed by Michael Nyqvist, lays on the misogynist paint pretty thickly: all women are sluts and whores; they "stink" of sin and the Devil within them. Pius never buys into Lena's desire for a godly life but doesn't truly discern her duplicity. What he does show is his close relationship to the junta and Pinochet: the compound produces both knock-off automatic weapons and poison gas for Pinochet.
Lena navigates this psychological snake pit until she and Daniel are reunited. In the end, their exit to safety proves nowhere near as safe as it should have been.
First, let me say that I enjoyed this film. Despite it's flaws it was thoughtfully done. While not as gripping as the Costa Gravas film "Missing", the feeling of fear is real.
(1) Daniel, supposedly in country only 4 months, isn't as credible as he should've been in the minutes leading up to their arrest. Possibly having him as a journalist would have made the backstory obvious.
(2) Lena's ability to meet with groups she hopes to enlist in finding Daniel during a military coup needed more gravitas. One would reasonably expect foreigners to be under scrutiny and unable to move freely about Santiago without being watched or followed. Lena appears to do so unfettered.
(3) Emma Watson, bless her heart, doesn't do pliant or fearful well enough to make the audience believe what she's experiencing in her dual challenges of (a) finding Daniel and (b) believably adapting to a way of life she has no preparation for. Ms. Watson isn't quite fearful enough. There's not enough play-acting to stay alive and in the good graces of the harsh women's matron "Aunt Gisela" and there's not enough sheer exhaustion from the backbreaking work the women do 24-7 (day and night shifts).
(4) MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: I like tight plots. This one hangs together well until the LAST 2-3 minutes. As Daniel and Lena are escaping, the Pinochet government shuts their plane's clearance down. Lena, who knows the pilot, holds photos taken at the Colonia that will prove what she's just escaped from. Instead, she just begs the pilot to violate international protocol and take off. Because she asks him to. Not buying it.
(1) This is an intelligent film despite it's flaws.
(2) This film is so relevant as it describes growing pains and atrocities that emerging countries and regions - used to dictatorships - experienced. The similarities between this film story and current events shouldn't be underestimated.
(3) There are a number of solid (and really, really creepy) supporting performances.
(4) The subtle question - whether foreigners/outsiders have the right to interfere and/or agitate - comes through almost every frame of films. The fascists and the communists aren't the only problems Chile has during this turbulent period - democracies failed them.