The Colony

 

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Seeing is believing unless, of course, you can’t.

 
Colony, The

Emma Watson

 

This drama, played for the most part in English, is set in Chile in 1973 just after General Pinochet seized power and it shows how those who had supported the deposed President Allende could find themselves taken away from Santiago to an interrogation camp some three hundred miles to the south. The location was that of the supposed charitable mission known as the Colonia Dignidad, an extreme sect functioning under the leadership of Paul Schäfer (Michael Nyqvist). But the horrifying truth was that it was used secretly for the torturing of prisoners. Furthermore, its religious character was a cover for Schäfer to control the inmates and to seize the opportunity to indulge his paedophile instincts with boys separated from their mothers.

 

Using at the outset that now clichéd phrase ‘inspired by a true story’, The Colony nevertheless has a fictional air in its portrayal of the love that exists between air stewardess Lena (Emma Watson) and visiting German photographer Daniel (Daniel Brühl). But the tone changes when Daniel, a supporter of Allende, is arrested and Lena risks all by applying to join the sect having heard that her lover has been taken to the Colonia Dignidad. The German filmmaker Florian Gallenberger, co-writer here with Torsten Wenzel, directs competently, and the revelation of life inside the colony is initially not without power since such sects often do involve the kind of extremists who are close to being stereotypes.

 

Viewers with a ready ability to suspend disbelief may be carried along by the film since Watson and Brühl do their best, but as the story develops it seems increasingly improbable. Even the notion of Lena risking so much to find Daniel who might be dead is far-fetched, but that is as nothing compared with such things as the oh-so-neat discovery of a trapdoor leading to an underground tunnel which proves crucial to the plot, their eventual ability to meet up readily to plan an escape and, ultimately, the do-or-die climax. The attempt to fly out of Santiago to safety appears as fabricated as the finale of the Ben Affleck film Argo (2012). I didn't believe a word of it so was not too surprised to learn after the screening that the two central characters never existed. Since the Colonia Dignidad was such a terrible reality, it seems tasteless to stoop to such an extravagant plot line. Some might argue that there is value in doing that in order to bring this disturbing history to wider public attention, but I remain unconvinced although there may even be some viewers whose extraordinary ability to believe whatever is put before them enables them to regard The Colony as an edge-of-the-seat experience.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist, Richenda Carey, Vicky Krieps, Jeanne Werner, Julian Ovenden, August Zimer, Martin Wuttke, César Bordón, Nicolás Barsoff.

 

Dir Florian Gallenberger, Pro Benjamin Herrmann, Screenplay Torsten Wenzel and Florian Gallenberger, Ph Kolja Brandt, Pro Des Bernd Lepel, Ed Hansjörg Weissbrich, Music André Dziezuk and Fernando Velázquez, Costumes Nicole Fischnaller.

 

Majestic/Beta Cinema/Iris Productions/Rat Pack Filmproduktion/Rezo Productions/Fred Films-Signature Entertainment.
110 mins. Germany/Luxembourg/France/UK. 2015. Rel: 1 July 2016. Cert. 15.