Based on a true incident, The Colony tells the story of a young man (Hans, played by Daniel Bruhl) taken away to a cult camp, the colony of the title, during the start of General Pinochet’s reign in Chile. Colonial Dignidad was a bad place indeed, to put it mildly. The leader (played here by Michael Nyqvist) would separate the men, women, and children. Torture would occur, regular beatings were doled out as punishments, and many children were abused. It’s almost impossible to consider the scale and constancy of the abuse that occurred within the camp, which is perhaps another reason why this tale focuses on Lena (played by Emma Watson) and her plan to enter the colony and extract Hans, who is also her boyfriend. The other reason being the information available about this particular case, I guess.
Director Florian Gallenberger doesn’t do too badly here, working from a script that he co-wrote with debuting screenwriter Torsten Wenzel. The geography of the colony is quickly sketched out, with the help of some overhead maps that appear while viewers are informed of how many days have been spent in there by Lena, and all of the characters are as they should be. Let’s face it, there aren’t really any varying degrees of morality here. This is a very clear cut case of goodies and baddies. The balance seems to be just right when it comes to staying true to a horrible slice of history and ratcheting up the tension for a nail-biting third act, and a number of footnotes at the end of the film also help to hammer home some sobering truths after the relative cosiness of seeing things played out cinematically.
Watson and Bruhl both do well enough. Neither are on their best form, but they don’t really have to be. This is a film more about what is done to dehumanise and mistreat the characters, and the leads certainly look as if they’re made to endure some hardships and pain, alongside all of the other potential victims. Nyqvist, on the other hand, gives a very interesting performance. It’s hard to see how his character has managed to achieve all that he has achieved by the time of the movie, but it’s easy to appreciate how intense he is as Nyqvist never relaxes for a moment. Richenda Carey is also very good, playing the “guard” who looks after, and mistreats, the women.
During the first act, I wondered why this movie hadn’t been developed as a simple fictional tale, using inspiration from real life to explore a dark part of humanity. The finale, however, brings things back into context. It’s just a shame that the rest of the movie doesn’t put itself to better use, with so much missing regarding the psychology and tactics used to fill up the colony.
A worthwhile watch, but also a bit of a missed opportunity to serve up some important lessons and help people avoid history repeating itself.
The Colony is showing at 1805 on both the 22nd and 26th June, in Cineworld.
DIRECTOR: FLORIAN GALLENBERGER
WRITER: TORSTEN WENZEL, FLORIAN GALLENBERGER
STARS: EMMA WATSON, DANIEL BRUHL, MICHAEL NYQVIST, RICHENDA CAREY
RUNTIME: 110 MINS APPROX