Preview: The Colony

Set for UK release on July 1st Colonia, or The Colony in some countries, is an upcoming German historical drama film directed by Oscar-winner Florian Gallenberger. The film, which stars Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl, was an international co-production of German, French and Luxembourgian film companies, and was screened at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival.

Set in 1973, a young couple, Lena and Daniel, become entangled in the Chilean military coup unfolding around them. Chaos and violence is rife, and in the midst of protests against General Augusto Pinochet, Daniel is abducted by Pinochet’s secret police force, DINA. The film follows Lena’s attempts to track him down and save him, as the wheels of history turn around her.

She tracks him to Colonia Dignidad, an organisation that first appears to be a charity mission run by a lay preacher, but soon she learns its much darker purpose as a cultish prison for the detention and torture of political prisoners. Fearing not just for Daniel’s life but now her own, Colonia is a story about how far someone will go for someone they love.

Colonia has been nominated for several German Film Awards, including best film and best director.

There’s a lot to like in this premise, not least the casting of Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl. Watson has shown her talent not just throughout the Harry Potter franchise but in some of her post-Potter films as well – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, for example. Brühl, too, has gone from strength to strength since his role as Fredrick Zoller in Inglourious Basterds, which brought him to the attention of mainstream English-speaking audiences, going on to feature in British espionage thriller A Most Wanted Man, as well as receiving widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of Formula 1 racing driver Niki Lauda in the 2013 film Rush, opposite Chris Hemsworth. His most recent film is also nothing to be ashamed of – Captain America: Civil War.

Michael Nyqvist, star of the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, co-stars as the sinister leader of Colonia Dignidad.

The historical backdrop is also an interesting one, and promises to shine a light on a piece of Cold War and world history not often examined in much detail. Granted, this only serves as a background to our protagonists’ struggles, but judging from the trailer (which, we’re all acutely aware, we probably shouldn’t actually do), it seems as though the 1973 Chilean military coup is very much at the centre of the plot, pushing the narrative along naturally, rather than being used merely as an excuse for the narrative. In any case, even if this isn’t the case and the film is instead more micro in its focus, it could still nonetheless be an interesting character/case study of what it might have been like for some who experienced the period.

So far, the film has received fairly mixed reviews, though it does hold a 7.1 rating on IMDb and has been nominated for several German Film Awards, including best film and best director. This might suggest that, much like Gallenberger’s previous films, it’s polarising rather than average as the net figure might lead us to think. This diversity of opinion is infinitely more interesting than if the critical consensus was that it was just “fine”, “average” or “below average”, and so if nothing else, Colonia is one to look out for just to see what your take on it is. Though, of course, we can at least hope that with the cast it has and the story it is telling, it will fall on the positive end of that spectrum.

By Oliver Rowe

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