Focusing on the now infamous Colonia Dignidad of Paul Schäfer, undisturbed in the Chilean countryside for near forty years, The Colony reads like something from the warped dystopian genre currently so beloved by film and literature. It is, however, a fictional couple placed in chillingly real circumstances.
Lena (Watson) and Daniel (Brühl) are convincing – but slightly too conveniently set up – as a liberal couple who become entangled in Pinochet’s 1973 military coup. When Daniel is spirited away by the secret police for his artistic activities, Lena tracks him down to Colonia Dignidad’s sealed-off compound. Believed to be a Christian charitable institution, Lena doubtingly (and unaccountably) joins in order to find her boyfriend and unearth the truth.
Brühl is as committed as ever, and expertly cast; whenever his on-screen presence is lacking, it is keenly felt. Watson, although perfectly good, is not as intense an acting force as Brühl and persists in being hampered by a voice lacking in range (and she’s also supposedly German…)
The film’s action happens too quickly, with little time spent on establishing context in anything other than a fleeting and rather formulaic way. By the time Lena is face-to-face with the one-eyed former Nazi paedophile Schäfer (seriously – athough a convincingly repulsive Michael Nyqvist has hung on to both of his) and establishing the rules of Colonia Dignidad, it’s all looking weirdly familiar. It’s like someone has put a slightly generic veneer on things, akin to The Hunger Games, which is a shame when the film’s proceedings are all-too-real.
The Colony is a film that feels like it should have been made years ago, but that its circumstances denied this makes it all the more powerful as a subject matter. Grimly fascinating, and blessed with good star-power, the screenplay is nonetheless rather too contrived and bland in places.
CAST: Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist, Richenda Carey, Vicky Krieps, Julian Ovenden
DIRECTOR: Florian Gallenberger
WRITER: Torsten Wenzel, Florian Gallenberger
SYNOPSIS: A young couple caught up in Chile’s military coup of 1973 are torn apart when Daniel (Brühl) is abducted by Pinochet’s secret police and imprisoned as a dissident at Colonia Dignidad, Paul Schäfer’s (Nyqvist) abusive cult masquerading as a charitable organization. His girlfriend Lena (Watson) joins the cult in order to track down and rescue him from its unknown threats.