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Horrors of Chile's Colonia Dignidad brought to life in Emma Watson's new film


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The greatest takeaway one can get from watching The Colony is the harrowing reality of the story told. 

The Colonia Dignidad did exist, Paul Schäfer (played by Michael Nyqvist) did lead the terrifying cult and cult members like Gisela (played by Richenda Carey) did abuse workers like Lena (played by Emma Watson).

In telling the story of the cult in the new film The Colony, filmmakers were left to make the movie as realistic as possible, something that did not always come easily to the actors involved.

“Obviously, it’s very uncomfortable to play somebody that cruel and unpleasant”, says Carey. “But that’s the game, and that’s what we do”.

“You suffered”, says director Florian Gallenberger to Carey. “I remember when you had to beat Emma with that thing, you were just resisting”.

One particular scene in the film — the one Gallenberger is referencing — shows Watson being beaten by Carey while working outside. Watson winces and collapses in pain. The scene is difficult to watch.

“This was the first day of shooting”, says Carey. “I was given a rolled-up piece of hosepipe, and, ‘Okay, you’ve got to whip Emma’. One of the world’s most popular actresses. And I went, ‘Yeah, yeah, but I don’t really, do I?’ And Florian said, ‘Yes, you do’. And I went, ‘Yeah, but not really’. It was terrible”.

The darkness continues through the film. One disturbing scene shows Nyqvist’s character as he tries to bring a dead man back to life in front of an audience of followers.

Gallenberger reveals that the event was real, and that Schäfer himself killed the man by experimenting with poisonous gases, something also referenced in the movie.

“I wouldn’t have cooked this moment up. Never, ever”, says Gallenberger. “It just happened like that. And you’re working your way in closer and closer to the centre of the system, and there is so much”, he says. “So you don’t have to even add anything. Life way worse than you see it in the movie, and we’d rather take out brutality and perverted desires of Paul Schäfer”.

Gallenberger shares additional creepy moments in learning about the Colonia Dignidad. One aspect not included in the film was the disappearance of sick children at the free hospital there.

Children would go to hospital with an illness, then their parents would be told their children hadn’t survived. They would be given “ashes” in urns while their children — still alive — were en route to the cult to be raised alone.

“There’s a group of Chilean men now who have very German names like Franz or whatever, and they were the adopted boys who were stolen from their parents”, says Gallenberger.

Today, the Colonia Dignidad has been rebranded as a tourist attraction, Villa Baviera. Gallenberger doesn’t think it’ll be shut down anytime soon.

“The colonia was extremely well established. In a way, nobody can take away the land from them, the very old generation — the founding generation — they are about 90 years old now”, he says. “I don’t think they can live anywhere else...I don’t see them living in a normal society.”

The Colony is released in UK cinemas on 1st July.

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