Cults — especially cults in movies — always seem to be fighting for the title of most horrific, as the just-released second trailer for the Emma Watson-and-Daniel Brühl starring thriller, Colonia, exhibits. Movies have often mined cult mentalities and hierarchies to chilling ends, and this doesn’t look particularly different — though what does set it apart is that it takes place within a real-life cult. (And that, as early reviews suggest, it may exploit its real-life horrors for Hollywood entertainment.)
The film, written by Florian Gallenberger, follows Watson as Lena, a flight attendant for Lufthansa whose boyfriend Daniel (played by Brühl) works for Chilean president Salvador Allende. While Lena’s visiting Daniel, however, Allende is ousted from office by Augusto Pinochet’s forces, and Allende’s supporters, Daniel included, are rounded up. Per the official description, Daniel is taken captive and sent to Colonia Dignidad, “a secret agricultural commune and crypto-fascist sect led by sinister minister Paul Schäfer” (not to be confused with David Letterman’s musical director) where Daniel is “interrogated and tortured”; Lena infiltrates the torturous community to try to free him.
Schäfer, a former Nazi medic played in the movie by Michael Nyqvist, fled Germany to avoid charges for the sexual assault of two children (at a home he’d set up for war orphans following WWII). Outside of the torture practiced under the Pinochet regime at the colony, Schäfer also seemed to have used his land to further exercise his sexual abuse: he went on the run in the late 90s from the Chilean government, after he was accused of child molestation by 26 other members of the colony. He was captured in Argentina in 2005, and died in prison in 2010.
The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, where it was met by pretty condemnatory criticism, with Variety calling it “a ludicrous exercise in lower-end genre cliches that just might work as a glossy thrill ride for viewers oblivious to the actual events it haplessly trivializes,” and The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth saying, “The cast deserves better, as does the audience, and more importantly, so do the actual victims of Colonia Dignidad.” So… with all that in mind… here’s, er…the new trailer: