When I saw that Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl were going to be in a film about Chile together, I could not wait to see it. I was waiting and waiting for it to come out in the cinema and it never came? I don't know if it was a straight-to-DVD film, but I was super disappointed to not be able to see it right away. I finally found it at the movie rental shop and gave it a watch. 

I spent quite a bit of my sophomore year of high school obsessively researching the coup that happened in Chile that put Augusto Pinochet into power in the 1970's. I learned about it briefly in my Spanish class and could not believe that no one talked about the horrible human rights violations that happened during his "presidency". If you'd like to learn more about this time in Chilean history, here are a few basic resources: (one, two, three)

The overthrow of Salvador Allende and the events that followed set the opening scenes for Colonia and inform all that follows in the film. Daniel Brühl plays Daniel (inspired), a German activist who is in Chile creating art for the Allende support campaign. Emma Watson is his girlfriend Lena, a flight attendant who has come to Chile on a routine flight and stays with Daniel for a time. During her stay, Allende is assassinated and Pinochet comes into power and starts rounding up leftists and Allende supporters. Daniel gets taken away to be tortured, leaving Lena alone and unsure of his whereabouts. She finds out that he's been taken to a place in Northern Chile called Colonia Dignidad, a Bavarian cult that provided a front for many of Pinochet's illegal activities. She decided to join the cult in order to find Daniel. 

Colonia Dignidad was a new part of this story for me, I have never heard of it previously. It was a "utopia" type of commune, run by a pedophile. He set up to make a society that returned to very stereotypical gender roles and was run with extremely strict rules. (more information here) opinion of this film was incredibly mixed. Let's start with:

The Good

1. Emma Watson: First of all, please be advised that Emma Watson can basically do no wrong in my eyes. I love her so much. She was great in this film, her angry face is my favorite.

2. Daniel Brühl: I've been a fan of Daniel Brühl since I watched him in Good Bye Lenin. He's such a fun actor to watch, though I do prefer him in German films. He brings a great depth of emotion to this role. 

3. Awareness: I don't think the general population (at least of the US) know much about the atrocities  that happened in Chile, and I'd love to see more films made about this time in history. There have also been some really good films made about the similar political situation in Argentina. 

4. Fashion: Emma Watson's wardrobe in this film is AMAZING. She does spend most of it in strange old timey clothes, but in the beginning she wears some real 70's gems and she looks fantastic.

The Bad

1. I'm kind of sad to see another film where "innocent white tourist" types get "caught up in this political situation" and it focuses on their escape. There was no escape for the Chileans or the people of Colonia Dignidad, and I would have loved to see a film where the main characters were Chilean. It's just a trope that's overdone and I'm sick of seeing this viewpoint. I'd like to see stories told by the people who actually went through all of it, not just people who got mistakenly caught up in it and then got to escape back to the "real world".

2. Bad Chemistry/Good Chemistry: The first part of the film focuses on establishing the love story between Lena and Daniel, and I just didn't buy it. Their chemistry was awkward and clumsy and frankly painful to watch. It improved significantly when they reunited at the commune, so that was a relief. 

3. Daniel Brühl's hair: The first half of the film was so hard to focus on because all I could see was Daniel Brühl's atrocious hair. I know he's meant to be a 70's hippie activist, but c'mon. That hair is awful. Luckily it gets cut halfway through the film and handsome Daniel returns! (My roommate and I literally cheered.)

Final Thoughts

Colonia was an entertaining movie about a very real and terrifying period in Chilean history, the repurcussions of which are still being felt. I don't pretend to know everything about the situations described in the film, but I think this movie did a good job of bringing awareness to some of the atrocities committed. Is it the end all be all film for Chile? Definitely not. Did I enjoy watching Emma & Daniel run around and be beautiful? Yes. 

(photo sources: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine)

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