Florian Gallenberger’s “Colonia” captures Chile’s horrific dark past.

Thyra Beckley, Staff Writer

From a brave rescue attempt to discovering the disturbing truth, “Colonia” is based on the true, dark, controversial part of South American history after World War II where many Germans, including former Nazis, lived in a secluded enclave in Chile called Colonia Dignidad.

Lena (Emma Watson) is a stewardess from Lufthansa, exhausted from her flight, who goes back to Chile to be with her German boyfriend and activist Daniel (Daniel Bruhl), who at the time was rousing up the people of Chile for a street rally. While this visit from Lena was meant to be romantic and relaxed, a coup hits and they are out in the street. With the people of Chile running for their lives, Daniel is so ardent that he can’t help himself but take pictures of the coup. With Lena pulling him to run on one side and Daniel so eager to take pictures, the two are caught and shipped to a soccer stadium for processing, where Daniel is taken and Lena is left, worrisome and heartbroken, clueless to where her boyfriend is.

After the traumatic event, Lena later finds out that Daniel had been likely taken to the south to the headquarters of the religious sect (cult) Colonia, established in the 1960s and founded by former Nazi, Paul Schafer (Michael Nygyist). Willing to save her boyfriend, Lena takes the risk in dressing and going undercover as a god-seeker.

Nygyist plays Paul Schafer with a commanding chillness to him, taking a repulsive, unhealthy  interest in Lena and seeing through her immediately. Their first encounter is when Lena is brought in from the fields after work by Gisela (Richenda Carey), saying that Paul would wish to see her. The uncomfortable scene between Lena and Paul starts with Paul asking Lena about her faith and if Satan was inside her; Not believing her, he asks her to take off her blouse revealing her lacy bra underneath and then hugging her afterwards. 

The second encounter is when Paul brings Lena into a meeting that he hosted to humiliate and demean the women of the cult. He slapped and spat on them and unfortunately, Lena was among the women. After being badly beaten and bruised, Lena and Paul have an awkward, tense face-off, going on about how Lena should get right with the Lord.

Despite Paul’s infatuation with Lena, his interest turns to the young boys off Colonia, sexually assaulting them. There’s a scene when Paul has just finished hearing the young boys sing as a choir, and follows them into the showers, dropping his pants, and then the movie continues to  the next scene. 

Meanwhile, Lena is clueless that underneath the hell above lies an even worse hell below, with Daniel being tortured, with the most intense, horrific scenes of torture, leaving Daniel with brain damage.

Or so they think. The leaders of the cult believe that he is a moron and slow, when he is actually planning and figuring out strategies to escape Colonia, finally making his way back to Lena, a very emotional and romantic scene for the two.  

Through their escape, Lena and Daniel do lose a friend that Lena made, Ursel, (Vicky Krieps) a pregnant nurse, who chooses to escape Colonia. Though being skeptical that it is a cult, Ursel dies tripping over the traps laid outside of Colonia. The escape is rough and brutal and through the help of friends, Julien Ovendedn (Roman) helps successfully fly Lena and Daniel out of Chile.

Like Ursel, many were not as successful in making it out, and died trying to escape or by the hand of Nazi leaders like Paul Schafer.

Despite this movie being made in 2015 and it being old now, Gallenberger’s “Colonia” romantic thriller not only shows the dark history of Chile, but is a life lesson that bad history should not be repeated.