Pablo Larraín on Pinochet’s role as a vampire in the Netflix original El Conde – Variety

Chilean author Pablo Larraín returns to Venice — after “Spencer” in 2021 — with the biting satire El Conde, in which Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, a symbol of global fascism, reappears as a 250-year-old vampire living in a rural area. rundown. Palace after faking his death.

The allegorical film, beautifully shot in black and white by master cinematographer Ed Lachman, stars venerable 87-year-old Chilean actor Jaime Fadel as Pinochet, who actually died at the age of 91 in 2006, unpunished and rich. . . During Pinochet’s 17-year regime, which began with a bloody military coup in 1973, more than 3,000 people died or disappeared due to political violence in Chile, which had previously had a long history of democracy.

diverse He spoke to Larraín — who previously tackled Pinochet in “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem,” as well as in the 2012 Oscar-nominated “No,” about the successful campaign to remove the dictator from office — and also spoke to the director’s brother, Juan De Dios Larraín, a producer on “El Conde,” talks about the urgent need to “finally put the camera directly in his face,” as Pablo puts it.

The Netflix original movie will have a limited theatrical release on September 7 in a few countries (US, UK, Chile, Argentina and Mexico) and will be released on Netflix globally on September 15.

Pablo, I read that you spent years imagining Pinochet as a vampire. And why did you choose to show him on screen like this now? Is it because the political right is exploring new ways to conquer voters and power around the world?

Pablo: Well there is that, of course. But one of the things that also gave urgency was the fact that, for me, Jaime Fadell is the actor playing this character. He is in his late 80’s so that was now or I don’t know when. So that movie really spurred me on. And the combination of seeing pictures of Pinochet wearing the cape, understanding that the lack of justice (towards him) made him eternal, and then taking the big step with our company, with Juan and everyone, to make a film that would put a camera on. directly on his face. It is a big step for our culture. Some people think it’s too early, and some people think it’s okay.

When Juan talked about this, I was surprised that Chile chose The Settlers as an Oscar submission even before El Conde screened in Venice and before the Academy’s deadline. Do you think this choice has anything to do with politics?

Ed Lachman with Pablo Larraín
Courtesy of Diego Araya Corvalan/Netflix

Juan: Well I do not know. But I’ve heard great things about this movie. I think it’s also related to the fact that “The Settlers” is the first work that went to Cannes, and a lot of people liked it and it feels like it’s from a new generation, and maybe the (Chilean) Academy wants to see new faces and give new opportunities. So yeah, that might be one of the answers. We don’t make movies to win awards, oscars or anything else. Of course we want to be chosen, but that hasn’t happened. But I’m sure “El Conde” will find its way and the recognition it deserves over the next couple of months.

Why do you think Pinochet is still so popular in Chile today? In a vote held last May, Chileans rejected a proposal to rewrite the country’s dictatorship-era constitution. Looks like he still has a lot of fans.

Pablo: Pinochet died without punishment, a free millionaire. For this reason, I believe his character remains a black stain on our society that reminds us every day how broken we are and how divided we are.

Let’s talk about the narrative tone I took with screenwriter Guillermo Calderón. You talked about a kind of “Dr. Strange Love.” There’s obviously this contradiction between the very satirical — and frankly funny — aspect of the film and the very serious issue at stake. How did you manage to navigate that?

Well, maybe the main problem when you portray someone like Pinochet and the people around him is that you need to be very eloquent about his evil. This is something that cannot be negotiated. Because what happens is that once you start photographing someone, there’s a natural possibility of triggering very simple empathic mechanisms. This was something we discussed a lot with Guillermo. And we end up adding scenes to the initial structure where he (Pinochet) behaves in the (evil) way we thought that expressed his opinion of the world and his opinion of others.

I love the fact that you have a secret nun named Carmencita as the character who tries to take him down at the end. Is there a relationship between that character and the role the church played in Chile when Pinochet was in power?

Pablo: During the dictatorship, the church had an organization called the Solidarity Procuratorate and it was a very important organization that helped many people. Unfortunately, later on, some of the people who were running that organization got involved in the sexual assault scandal. That’s another story. But the reason is that Carmencita can be fresh, funny, and adorable, and that can also be very unpredictable. But it is, of course, a still powerful force in the world.

I want to go back to my initial question, which I kind of avoided. Is this film a response to the right winds blowing in much of the world, or do I read too much into it?

No, no, look: I didn’t want to skip the question. It’s just that this conversation becomes very political. But I’m ready for that. What I would say is that fascism comes in different shapes and forms. Sometimes some of them are hard to read, because they start with seduction, then move on to fear, and then end with violence. This is something we are witnessing with the rise of the right in many countries of the world. And I think there is an allegory in this film that can be accepted and felt in many societies. It’s amazing when you can talk about your city, as they say, and then realize that your city is not that different from many others. So I really hope that this movie can do that and that it can kind of break down those barriers and get people to reflect on their own reality and take this as a testament to one of their own.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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