El Conde: review of Pablo Larraín’s biopic about vampires (Venice 80)

In the last few years, Pablo Larrain he became known to the masses through his biopics of some famous female figures of the 20th century: Jackie (review) e Spencerwith the following Marystarring Angelina Jolie as famous opera singer Maria Callas.

However, his most significant works focus on the turbulent life in his home country of Chile under the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet: Tony Manero (2008), Post-mortem examination (2010)e No (2012). As also demonstrated El Club In 2015, Pablo Larraín seems more “safe” when dealing with the devastating effects of personal and national trauma, a theme he returns to again in El Conde – this time with a satirical note, as dark and ferocious as the monster he is talking about.

Co-written with the screenwriter El Club AND Neruda Guillermo Calderon, El Conde (premiered at the Venice Film Festival and then debuted in Netflix September 15th) a hybrid genre piece shot in black and white and presenting an alternate reality. in which Pinochet(Jaime Wadell) is not only a figurative embodiment of Evil, but also a literal one.

In fact, in the uchronic universe in which the story is set, the Chilean dictator, who died in 2006, is a 250-year-old vampire living on the extreme outskirts of Santiago de Chile.

However, while still alive (or at least not dead…), he now desires eternal peace because his country has turned against him after four decades of rule for his crimes and corruption. His wife Lucia looks after him (Gloria Munchmeier) and his trusted servant Fedor (Alfredo Castro), now reduced to a ruin of himself, reduced to wandering between the rooms of his bare house and the agricultural buildings of the vast estate, dejected by his present condition and the fact that he does not have the will to end it.

El Conde is narrated in the original language by a woman with a British accent, whose personality is a key part of the cynical core assumption: that is, that evil is eternalwhich is constantly reborn in different guises and in different parts of the world to devastate the pure, honest and innocent.

AND desert worldview like the fog-shrouded landscape in which this uchronic Augusto Pinochet lives, keeping himself upright and conscious by feeding on the supply of frozen hearts stored in the basement of his hideout.

The austere wooden structures and the guillotine that Fedor uses to separate the heads of horses and pigs from their bodies make this dwelling a suitable home for a nocturnal creature. However, at the beginning of the story It’s more like a prison than anything else for Pinochet, who flies through the night sky in his iconic military uniform, his cape flapping in the wind like the wings of a bat, to hunt the inhabitants of a nearby metropolis.

There he cuts out the hearts of his victims with a knife, puts them in a blender and consumes them in glasses, which at one point in the film he leaves at the scenes of his crimes with arterial remains stained on the sides.

In collaboration with Edward Lachman, Todd Haynes’ regular cinematographer, Pablo Larraín shot El Conde in luxurious solid shades, favoring silhouettes, panoramic shots, and overhead shots that suggest a “celestial judgment.” Digital images are not grainy enough to compare with Nosferatu Murnau, but they still create a fairly cool atmosphere around.

To increase supply there is a considerable amount blood, be it fatal stab wounds and gruesome beheadings, or the indiscriminate consumption of organs and body fluids – all this emphasizes the “gluttony” of the protagonist. Given that he instinctively feeds on people, it is not surprising that dictator Vadella ignores the hundreds (if not thousands) of political assassinations he has ordered; What bothers him the most is being called a “thief”for this presupposes that he had no right to the wealth provided by his presidential office.

The complex where Augusto Pinochet lives it can only be accessed through a body of water similar to the River Styx. in a boat called the Ark, and the saga of El Conde involves two waves of unexpected visitors. The first includes the old man’s five children, who know their father’s evil secret and demand his wealth (presumably contained in his cache of secret documents). The second is Carmencita (Paula Luchsinger Escobar), a young and devout nun who is called to the house by one of Pinochet’s daughters to pose as an accountant and try to free a man from his “demonic possession”.

Distorted revelations and double crosses follow.From flashbacks recounting the initial discovery of Pinochet’s “fortune” as an anti-revolutionary soldier in the army of King Louis XVI, to dance flights in perpetually gray and cloudy skies, to a series of romantic relationships and nefarious plans in which everyone tries to maintain – or improve – their position in this old court.

Pablo Larraín acknowledges that the real Pinochet was a demon with few equals in history, and so the portrayal of El Conde as a Count Dracula-like beast inevitably resonates with terribly funny joke.

Thus, the film looks like a cross between a horror film. Continuity AND When Stalin dies, another one is createdwith the immortality, self-interest and ruthlessness of the heroes, matched only by their idiocy – well, everyone except Augusto Pinochet himself, who, as the story progresses, gains new life thanks to an unexpected love relationship that complicates the plots in the run against him.

One might say that it’s a shame that the director and Calderon don’t delve into the absurd; in fact, the material on screen sometimes needed an extra dose of wacky comedy to help “sell” the basic – and to some extent subtle – idea behind it.

However, the general accusatory harshness is itself a form of bitter humor.And especially when Carmencita interviews Pinochet’s adult children and praises their heinous crimes (including the profits from terrorism) with a sarcasm that completely escapes them, full of pride and entitlement.

“El Conde” is both Pablo Larraín’s most direct and creative attempt to grapple with the legacy of Augusto Pinochet and the catastrophes his actions caused head-on, helped by superb performances from 87-year-old Jaime Vadell as the decrepit and banally evil dictator and Paula Luchsinger Escobar. as her polar opposite rival (who, in the final close-up, bears a striking resemblance to Joan of Arc, portrayed in 1928 by Rene Falconetti.).

Ultimately, El Conde conveys nothing that hasn’t already been explored in the director’s previous films about a dictator’s terror, but it remains an elegantly pessimistic portrait of one man’s anger and, just as caustic, the way it infected everyone it touched (or should I say, bit).

Below you will find international trailer El Conde, on Netflix from September 15:

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