Colonia, directed by Florian Gallenberger, is a thriller based on true events. The film is about a young stewardess, Lena, who enters Colonia Dignidad to save her lover, Daniel. With the fear of getting caught constantly lurking, ‘Colonia’ is a captivating watch. At times the coincidences overpower to the point that it seems a little too convenient. Still, the brilliant performances from Emma Watson (Lena), Daniel Bruhl (Daniel), and Michael Nyqvist (Paul Schäfer) make ‘Colonia’ worth a watch.
‘Colonia’ Plot Summary
‘Colonia’ began with the visual representation of the unstable condition of Chile in the year 1973, while the song ‘Ain’t no sunshine (Bill Withers) played along. Daniel is a West German photographer and an activist who took part in Chilean politics. He made posters supporting President Allende, who aligned with his Marxist vision. While life in Chile was fulfilling for Daniel, his world started to crumble when Allende was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet. Aware of how he would be a target of Pinochet’s military, Daniel left his house with Lena. The two were soon captured by Pinochet’s men when they spotted Daniel taking pictures of the harassment caused by them. Later, Daniel was taken away from Lena due to his prior involvement in Chilean politics. Lena sought help from members of the Socialist Party of Chile, but it was in vain. Desperate to find her boyfriend, Lena decided to enter Colonia Dignidad, a cult organization separated from the outside world.
The Inhuman Torture At Colonia Dignidad
Colonia Dignidad was notoriously famous for torturing prisoners brought in by Pinochet’s men. The ‘Colony of Dignity was a colony created by Paul Schäfer, a Nazi colonel, who fled capture and trial after World War II, turned himself into a pastor, and started the cult in Chile.
The ‘colony of dignity’ was located in central Chile and was the home to over 300 German and Chilean residents. Only a total of 5 cult members managed to escape out of the colony in 40 years.
In the film, when Daniel tried to escape for the first time, he tripped over the electric fence surrounding the colony. The place also had searchlights and watchtowers for protection. Daniel pretended to be mentally challenged, which helped him escape several challenging situations. The colony was segregated according to gender and age. The men and women-only intermingled during the mixed parades, which were conducted for special guests. Doro, who became friends with Lena, was punished for her desire to marry her lover, whom she met three years back during the mixed parade. Doro was brought to the men’s gathering where she was to be ‘cleansed’ of her ‘filth’ by Pius and his men. While the colony portrayed a picture of harmony and order, and at a superficial level depended on agriculture, at the core, it was a hub for torturing prisoners as well as supplying weapons. When Daniel was first taken to the colony, he was tortured by electric shocks and physical assault. Such torture methods were used when the colony functioned as a secret detention camp from 1973 to 1985.
Who Was Pius?
The cult leader, Paul Schäfer, was also affectionately called Pius. Everything that took place in the colony was in control of the Pius. The film showed how the Pius made deals with the dignitaries to supply weapons and poisonous gas. The colony was a secret and safe space to conduct punishments that violated human rights. The cult members dressed as Germans from the 30s and sang German folk songs. Women were disregarded by the Pius and were kept away from the men for their filth. Conjugal relations were only possible when the leader permitted it, though the mothers had to give up the child three months after birth. Schäfer was charged with child sex abuse by 25 children. After hiding from 1997 to 2004, he was brought in custody by the Chilean government and sentenced to 20 years. He died on 24th April 2010, aged 88, due to heart failure.
‘Colonia’ Ending Explained
After escaping the colony through a secret tunnel that Danial found at the potato shade, Lena and Daniel reached for help from the German Embassy. Daniel showed the pictures he had taken at the colony to the embassy. The embassy said they could only offer tickets for a flight that left Chile the week after. Lena being a stewardess, asked help from her colleague and managed a way to fly home.
Determined to leave the country, the two left for the airport while an embassy member accompanied them. Leena and Daniel were tricked by an embassy member and were locked away from the airport. Upon looking out the window, Lena saw Pius shake hands with the embassy member and realized it was a trap. The two escaped from the room through the window. The run and chase continued between Pius and the couple. Lena and Daniel managed to enter the flight, and the doors were closed. The Chilean police denied permission for take-off, but the pilot decided to proceed anyhow, knowing the danger Lena was in. Daniel and Lena finally escaped with pictures from the colony to show to the world outside.
The photographs smuggled from ‘Colonia Dignidad’ were released internationally and became a matter of immense discussion. Sadly, the photographs could not create an impact in Chile. It was only in the late 90s that the citizens of Chile became more aware of the activities conducted at the colony. Paul Schäfer managed to disappear in 1997, escaping child sex abuse charges. He was later arrested in 2005 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Colonia is a 2021 Biopic Drama Thriller film directed by Florian Gallenberger.