Colonia (2015)

  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Drama | History | Romance
  • Director: Florian Gallenberger
  • Cast: Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Mikael Nyqvist


Lena and Daniel, a young couple become entangled in the Chilean military coup of 1973. Daniel is abducted by Pinochet’s secret police and Lena tracks him to a sealed off area in the South of the country, called Colonia Dignidad. The Colonia presents itself as a charitable mission run by lay preacher Paul Schäfer but, in fact, is a place nobody ever escaped from. Lena decides to join the cult in order to find Daniel. Based on true events.

One comment

  • There is something so patently distasteful about the way Colonia cheapens the real-life horrors that occurred in the Colonia Dignidad. The colony was the site of a Christian cult led by ex-Nazi Paul Schäfer (Michael Nyqvist), who collaborated with Augusto Pinochet’s military junta to overthrow Salvador Allende’s government, and allowed the settlement to be used as a torture and detention center.

    The 1973 coup serves as a backdrop for Colonia, which begins with Lufthansa stewardess Lena (Emma Watson) spying boyfriend Daniel (Daniel Brühl) rallying a crowd of Allende supporters from the van carrying her and the rest of the flight crew. She and Daniel retreat to his apartment where she admires his latest photographs and his backside in between bouts of lovemaking and generic pillow talk. Their reunion is predictably interrupted by the coup and the couple, along with hundreds of others, are rounded up by the military police. Lena is soon released, but Daniel is taken to the Colonia Dignidad where he withstands rounds of electrocution but still refuses to give up the names of his accomplices. The officials, believing him to be brain damaged at this point, hand him over to the camp to be one of its many workers.

    Meanwhile, Lena decides to take matters into her own hands by pretending to be a woman dedicated to God in order to infiltrate the camp and rescue Daniel. During the 130 days she spends in Colonia Dignidad before Daniel finally notices her, she bears witness to the various goings-on at the camp. The men and the women are separated and live apart from each other; any fraternisation results in abuse, mostly directed at the offending female, who is slapped around by Schäfer before handling her over to the rest of the men to be further brutalised. They’re put to work in the fields and given daily dosages of pills (somehow Lena’s constitution is so impenetrable that she doesn’t turn into a walking zombie like the rest of the pill-takers). Schäfer and the equally sadistic headmistress, Gisela (Richenda Carey), go on and on about the women being sluts and reeking of the devil’s stench. There’s also Schäfer’s stable of underaged boys he’s collected around him to add even more luridness to the heap.

    Director and co-writer Florian Gallenberger has all the nuance and sensitivity of a battering ram, and the atrocities become ludicrous rather than horrifying. The film feels more like the latest entry into the annals of exploitation cinema instead of a political drama or thriller. Why Lena would even come up with such a ridiculous plan when she and Daniel seem to barely know one another strains the borders of belief. Let’s not even dwell too long on Daniel pretending to be mentally challenged so he can document all the wrongdoings and figure out an escape plan.

    Everyone involved should be embarrassed at their participation in this dreck, though it should be noted that Watson manages to look lovely throughout.

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