Pablo Larraín’s El Conde is a fictional retelling of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. He ruled over the country for nearly two decades, starting from 1973 all the way to 1990. As you can probably imagine, it was a horrific period in the history of Chile, and thousands upon thousands of people were killed and tortured. Guess who backed him up? The United States of America. He was arrested in 1998, but he got to walk away despite being guilty of genocide and terrorism.
Various charges were thrown at Pinochet after his return to Chile, but before he could be convicted, he died in 2006. Larraín and co-writer Guillermo Calderón’s version of Pinochet begins his journey in France, where he grows up in an orphanage, becomes an officer in Louis XVI’s army, realizes he’s a vampire, fakes his death, goes around the world to participate in various revolutions, and then settles in Chile, where he becomes a dictator. After around 2 centuries, Pinochet wants to die again and give away his property to his wife, Lucía, his butler, Fyodor, and his children, Luciana, Mercedes, Jacinta, Aníbal, and Manuel. Now, the characters blabber a lot about property disputes, and the narrator retcons some historical events, and those are pretty self-explanatory. So, instead of regurgitating all that, I’ll talk about the pivotal moments in the plot and what they probably mean.
An Exorcist Is Brought To The Pinochet Household
From what I can gather, El Conde wants to do an evaluation of the property that he has at his disposal, divide it amongst those who are close to him, and then perish. The exorcist known as Carmencita is hired to do the job. I initially thought that she was only pretending to be an accountant looking through the Pinochet household, whereas in reality she is preparing for her opportunity to kill El Conde. But when she starts to interview each of the family members, as well as Fyodor, she reveals that she does intend to exorcize the devil out of Augusto’s body. So, there are a few things going on here. The kids are unaware of Augusto’s bloody past. They are clearly reaping the benefits of the horrors that he has inflicted upon his own people, and they are looking to get richer. However, they actually think that Augusto is incapable of harming a fly, and whatever he has done, he has done it out of some form of compulsion.
The family is clearly aware of Augusto’s vampirism, though, and that’s contradictory because how can one be a vampire without harming others? Still, they accept that in order to let Augusto die, Carmencita has to exorcize him. If it makes sense to anyone but me, good for them. Apart from this, there’s the religious angle. Every vampire film deals with it because the iconic character’s biggest weakness is a cross. Many modern films have mocked it because it’s as preposterous as the existence of vampires. El Conde doesn’t start on that note because it portrays Carmencita as a formidable opponent whose determination to do the exorcism won’t waver. She always sticks to facts and figures. She isn’t bothered by anything. She shows just a fraction of emotion while interviewing Fyodor because the dude is genuinely scary. And above all, she believes in the power of God and draws all her strength from the almighty. That said, like in every vampire movie, it’s only a matter of time before she gives in to temptation and corrupts her “pure” soul.
Carmencita Gives in to El Conde’s Vampiric Allure
Halfway through El Conde, it becomes clear that Augusto isn’t in love with Lucía and is gravitating towards Carmencita. He starts “working out” on his treadmill. He walks all the way to the hut in which Carmencita is staying and asks for her permission to come in, which reinforces the age-old lore that vampires can’t enter a place unless they are invited. Augusto accepts the invitation, but he makes a fool of himself by tripping over his own feet and falling to the ground. Weirdly enough, Carmencita doesn’t even help him get up. She just shuts the door on his face. It makes sense, though. He is a fascist. He isn’t a ruler anymore, but if someone was a fascist in the past, they will continue to be a fascist throughout life. Anyway, Augusto realizes that he has become weak. FYI, this is the guy who wants to die, and now that he’s in love with Carmencita, he wants to regain his strength. So he tries to make a smoothie out of the frozen hearts in the freezer. But they fail to get the job done. Therefore, he goes out hunting. This whole sequence is probably supposed to indicate that the vampiric specter of Augusto continues to haunt Chile.
The people that Augusto preys on are old ladies and blue-collar workers. So, that sends the message that even after a fascist’s death, their ideologies will harm the weaker sections of the society. By the way, even though it was pretty evident, Fyodor clarifies that he was the one who went out and stole all the hearts (literally) to terrorize Augusto’s children enough to come and kill him. Since Fyodor was turned into a vampire by Augusto, he can’t kill him. It’s the good old master-apprentice rule. Fyodor is in a relationship with Lucía, but she can’t turn her loose on Augusto because there’s a hierarchical issue. But is that the best way to put Augusto out of his misery? Isn’t that too convoluted? Or is this functioning purely on a thematic level to show that even though Augusto is a literal vampire, his kids are the real vampires because they are living off his wealth? I don’t know for sure. Coming back to the affair between Augusto and Carmencita, Carmencita randomly tries to exorcize Augusto, but Augusto gets the better of Carmencita and turns her into a vampire. As mentioned earlier, the film makes it seem that Carmencita has the upper hand because of her belief in God. However, when push comes to shove, she simply gives in.
What Happened To The Fictional Vampiric Version Of Augusto Pinochet?
The beginning of the final act of El Conde is marked by two flight sequences: Carmencita experiencing freedom for the first time and Margaret Thatcher coming to reclaim her son, Augusto. Yes, Margaret Thatcher, a former Prime Minister of the U.K., is not just a vampire; she is Augusto’s mother. She used to work in the vineyards of France, and she was sexually harassed by a sailor who turned out to be a vampire. She gave birth to Augusto, left him at an orphanage, and then became the Iron Lady of the United Kingdom. Don’t try to make sense of it because it’s a satire in which Pablo is making fun of Thatcher’s relationship with Pinochet. In real life, Thatcher did defend Pinochet’s heinous activities because conservatives (fascists) protect conservatives (fascists) regardless of the era or the situation. I can be wrong here, but the film’s reasoning behind their bond isn’t provocative enough. Turning them into a mother and a son is unnecessarily cute. Anyway, while all this is going on, Augusto’s children decide to murder Carmencita because they realize that she’s there to steal the money that they want. Fyodor finally bites Lucía and turns her into a vampire so that she can kill Augusto.
In El Conde‘s ending, Carmencita tries to kill Augusto during a fake wedding ceremony, I suppose. But she aborts the mission and tries to escape with all the documents she needs to suck the Pinochet household dry. However, Fyodor catches up with her and kills her. Augusto kills Lucía because she was going to kill Augusto as well as Margaret. Augusto also kills Fyodor for being disloyal to Augusto and joining hands with Lucía to kill Augusto. The kids don’t get to kill anyone, and they don’t get any of the money either. They are forced to sell some of the stuff in the house to earn some money. The church that had sent Carmencita claims the Pinochet household once it is emptied. Augusto and Margaret drink vampire blood and make themselves younger, while funding themselves by selling Napoleon’s letters, Darwin’s diaries, and the first edition of Mein Kampf.
Augusto literally turns into a 15-year-old kid and enters a school with the intention of ending the leftists who are getting their education there. So, coming back to a point I made earlier, it’s possible that El Conde is a cautionary tale about the reemergence of fascism in modern times and how that needs to be struck down as soon as possible. Countries have suffered because of it, and there’s historical evidence of what happened during those times. And the weird thing about people is that they sometimes forget about their own history, fail to draw parallels between the past and the present, and make the mistake of trusting a fascist again. With all that said, none of what I’m saying is clearly presented in the film. It’s very dull, bland, and meandering. It could’ve been amazing because the themes were present. I don’t know where things went wrong. If you feel like giving it a try, go to Netflix, watch El Conde, form your own opinions, and share your thoughts with us.