Skip to Content

El Conde Movie Review

El Conde Movie Review

In the event you’re ever transformed into a vampire, craving the essence of life, a blend of human hearts might just be your go-to refreshment—a bit of dark humor there. This is a snippet from the biting satire “El Conde” by Chile’s own Pablo Larraín. In this film, the notorious dictator Augusto Pinochet, portrayed by Jaime Vadell, is reimagined as an ageless vampire who’s been in hiding since he staged his own death to escape justice.

Narrated in English with a storybook quality (you’ll find out why later), the narrative amusingly recounts Pinochet’s villainous adventures under an alias before the French Revolution. As time marches on, he travels the world, aligning with tyrants and crushing progressive movements, feeding both his thirst for blood and his love for authoritarianism. Pinochet collects eerie souvenirs along his journey, including Napoleon’s hat and Marie Antoinette’s head. The set, crafted by Rodrigo Bazaes, exudes an air of ancient authenticity, with each artifact bearing the marks of history.

The timeless allure of this tale is captured in the striking black-and-white visuals by cinematographer Edward Lachman. The most captivating scenes feature a shadowy figure in military attire soaring over a coastal city like a real-life Batman. This airborne predator (possibly Pinochet himself?) pulverizes still-beating hearts with high-powered blenders, humorously contrasting his mythical allure with his gruesome culinary habits. Despite its elegant silhouette, the feeding routine becomes eerily mundane, akin to an office worker gulping down a morning protein shake.

When news of these horrific killings hits the headlines, it sends shockwaves through Pinochet’s adult children. These self-centered individuals are more concerned about maintaining their comfortable lifestyles than their father’s desire to disappear. Worried about their inheritance, they journey to their father’s hidden abode to inquire about his financial status and future plans. Larraín, along with co-writer Guillermo Calderón, brilliantly highlight their petty arguments and selfish concerns about family wealth, resulting in some of the script’s most biting and hilarious lines.

Jaime Vadell, a frequent collaborator of Larraín’s, portrays the bloodthirsty Pinochet with an exasperatingly endearing cluelessness, as if oblivious to his own wickedness. His character loses the will to live after being labeled a thief. On the other hand, Fyodor (played by Alfredo Castro), the general’s most devoted lackey and a symbol of corrupt loneliness, expresses a chilling admiration for everything the former leader represents. Castro’s ability to adapt from one role to another is consistently impressive. Whether he’s executing an adversary or reluctantly hauling luggage in a Russian fur hat, he never fails to steal the scene.

Larraín employs dark humor and a knack for the macabre to strip the aged killer of any self-righteous dignity he might try to hold onto. While the reality of impunity is harsh, there’s a grim satisfaction in watching a fictionalized Pinochet come to terms with the fact that history will forever tarnish his name. He no longer controls his public image. Despite his lack of conscience, it’s amusing to see him still behaving like a victor while his body decays into insignificance. This version of Pinochet refuses to admit to the numerous lives he took but denies allegations of stealing from Chilean institutions. In his mind, how could he have stolen anything when he only took what was rightfully his?

Carmen (played by Paula Luchsinger Escobar), a young nun, is assigned to assist the family in assessing their wealth while maintaining absolute discretion. Luchsinger Escobar brings a quirky energy to her role as she eagerly uncovers the shocking truths from Pinochet’s children and his equally twisted wife, Doña Lucia (Gloria Münchmeyer). Carmen’s involvement leads to a romantic entanglement with Pinochet, reminiscent of Edward and Bella’s relationship but without the youthful charm. A scene featuring Carmen levitating in ecstasy, seemingly on the verge of sainthood, echoes the powerful grace of Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” with a touch of forbidden sensuality.

In both “Jackie” and “Spencer,” Larraín sought to restore the humanity of iconic women that public opinion had denied. In “El Conde,” he aims to depict the dictator as a pitiful parasite driven purely by self-preservation. The film recalls another of Larraín’s works, “The Club” (also featuring Vadell), which explores the secluded lives of pedophilic Catholic priests living in privileged isolation, much like Pinochet, whose crimes went unpunished. “El Conde” also criticizes the Church for its collaboration with the culprits. However, this new film’s satirical tone prioritizes stylistic boldness over a more contemplative exploration of its sociopolitical and historical underpinnings.

This darkly humorous, blood-drenched depiction of a deteriorating despot arrives on streaming platforms during the 50th anniversary week of Pinochet’s coup against President Allende. Larraín offers no illusions about eliminating the ideologies that enabled and sustained such atrocities. Instead, he cautions that evil never truly dies—it merely morphs to corrupt fresh minds.

Read also:

You cannot copy content of this page