Last Sunday evening, I settled in to watch Colonia, a film from 2015, staring Emma Watson, Daniel Bruhl, and Michael Nyqvist. I really had no clue what it was about before I started it other than something about a young woman searching for her boyfriend who had been abducted by some military/religious/political sect that nobody had ever escaped from and that was inspired by actual events. Seriously, IMDB can really let you down when it comes to giving you a good description about what you’re getting yourself into. Anyways, I do really love a good political thriller so I figured I’d check it out. Plus, I wanted to know what Emma Watson and Michael Nyqvist had been up to. I mean who doesn’t love Hermione? And then there’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, the Swedish version, not the American version. We American’s really did a terrible job at turning the book into a movie. So sad. Anyways, I wanted to see what Michael Nyqvist was like as an actor outside of his role in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. He’s good. He had me believing he’s a total nutcase.
But enough about that. Now on to what the movie’s about. Emma Watson plays an airline attendant who has a layover in Santiago de Chile in 1973, which is supposed to be fairly brief, but turns into more than she bargained for. Her boyfriend is an activist who is protesting the dictator, Pinochet, and gets himself abducted by the secret police and then tortured by the Colonia Dignidad. After he gets abducted, she infiltrates the barb-wired compound that’s holding him. She then finds herself with this guy Paul Schafer (aka Michael Nyqvist) who is this totally crazy ex-Nazi religious cult leader. And by totally crazy I mean insane. There are torture rooms, reports of child abuse, weapons cashes, and more. It’s a place that you definitely wouldn’t want to accidentally stumble upon. But, the heroin of the film get herself in and then has to try and figure out how to get her and her boyfriend out of there and out of the country before they both get killed.
As I mentioned earlier, this was based off of actual events so when the movie ended I hit up Google for more details. In real life, the colony was founded by Paul Schafer (aka Eternal Uncle – that’s not creepy at all) in 1961. He was a former member of the Hitler Youth, a World War II corporal, and an evangelical preacher who fled Germany for Chile after being accused, but never tried, of sexually molesting young boys. Based on the various articles I read online from the New York Times, The Independent, and The Daily Mail, to name a few, it is alleged that Schafer and Pinochet had a mutually beneficial relationship going on. Pinochet would turn a blind eye to the abuse and other crimes in exchange for Schafer letting the colony act as a torture site for Pinochet’s political prisoners. There were also some other notable Nazi’s around the place too such as the inventor of the portable gas chamber, Walter Rauff, and the Aushwitz’s “Angel of Death”, Josef Mengele. Hundreds of bodies have been found on the grounds of the colony along with what’s been called the largest privately held collection of arms ever discovered in the country. It wasn’t until 1997 when 20 children of the colony accused Schafer of sexual assault that his rule over the colony ended. He fled the country but was found eight years later in Argentina. In 2006, at the age of 84, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual abuse. Also, in 2006, former members of the colony asked for forgiveness for 40 years of human rights abuses in their community. They said they had been brainwashed by Schafer and viewed him as God. Seriously, what is it with cult followers? Anyways, Schafer finally died in 2010.
All in, I think the news articles are far more disturbing then then film. But, the cast did an excellent job and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Emma Watson’s career and I’m curious to track down some of Michael Nyqvist’s other work as well. If you know of any, drop me a note in the comments below. Thanks!