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Pablo Larrain on the Venice premiere of ‘El Conde:’ “Pinochet’s impunity has made him eternal and broken my country.”

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It’s been more than 10 years since Pablo Larrain released his last film about former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, No. The territory was both familiar and uncharted. Whereas 2012’s No and the two earlier films in Larrain’s Pinochet trilogy –

TonyManero (2008) and Post Mortem (2010) – steered clear of depicting the tyrant on screen and focused on how his violent rule (1973-1990) bled into the psyche of Chileans, El Conde is something very different.For the first time Larrain puts Pinochet, who came to power through a military coup 50 years ago and is played here by octogenarian Chilean actor Jaime Vadell, front and centre of the camera. Larrain goes even further and portrays the dictator as a 250 year old vampire who wants to die. At home in his gothic residence in the southern Chilean hinterland, he tolerates his wife and despicable gaggle of corrupt adult children, who eagerly await the day they can inherit their father’s ill-gotten millions tucked away in international bank accounts.“I wanted to go straight to him and just do a fucking close-up,” says Larrain from his hotel in Hungary, where the director of Spencer



has been prepping for his upcoming Maria Callas biopic starring Angelina Jolie. “Nothing oblique… It was necessary to find a method to do it, and that’s when the satire, the vampire, and the absurdity and greed come in.” It was about time to do it.”Now he’s done it, the vampire conceit makes perfect sense for a monstrous military careerist whose henchmen murdered thousands of dissidents, terrorised tens of thousands more, and sucked the hope out of a country.“We never put Pinochet on trial”Source: Juan Pablo MontalvaPablo Larrain

For Larrain, however, the high concept goes higher. Larrain says that when he thought about how to deal with Pinochet’s evil, he came up with the idea of a vampiric immortal life. “Santiago Mitre’s

Argentina 1985

is a film about justice and the ability of that country to move forward because there was a nationwide agreement that this could not happen again and that these people should be sent to jail.”

The director pauses, and stares dolefully at the Zoom camera. “We never tried Pinochet. The idea for the story was born during the pandemic. “We put these ideas in and the words that came up were ‘vampire’, ‘eternal’, ‘greed’, ‘impunity’.” “We put these ideas in and the words that came up were ‘vampire’, ‘eternal’, ‘greed’, ‘impunity’.”

Production took place entirely in Chile in the late summer of 2022 with Vadell and a fine cast including Chilean grand dame Gloria Munchmeyer, her daughter Catalina Guerra who plays one of the five grown-up children, and Paula Luchsinger ([Oscar-nominated] Ema) as a warrior nun.

Fabula, the Chile-based powerhouse run by Larrain and his brother Juan de Dios Larrain, served as the producer.

Larrain and Calderon situated the formative years of the young vampirical Pinochet in late 18th-century France. “Pinochet was born to immigrants, so Guillermo thought he would be a soldier in the French Revolution,” muses Chilean filmmaker. The film is awash in Ed Lachman’s atmospheric black-and white cinematography – Larrain calls Lachman a “jedi of photographic” – and is narrated a figure from a country that speaks English and pokes fun at Chile’s paternalistic policies and views the people as mere peasants. Precisely who this is becomes clear as the film unfolds.Finding the right toneLarrain and Calderon worked hard to get the right balance of gore and laughs. He says that “humour, even satire has a rhythm.” It’s all about pace, silence, when to speak and the performances. I think non-Chileans might connect more to the jokes than Chileans, but we tried to stay within a tone that would work for most people.”

Source: NetflixEl CondeThey drew inspiration from cinema’s vampire canon, particularly the work of FW Murnau (an early joke already doing the rounds summarises

El Conde

as “




El Conde

“), Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s

Dr. Strangelove

. “And then you throw a Latin American dictator into the cocktail.”Larrain was 12 when Pinochet’s 17-year rule ended with the referendum (depicted in No) in 1988 and says he does not remember much of the earlier times. “I was in a privileged position and never faced any danger,” he says. When I became an adult, I understood that violence was coming from the social class I grew up in. He says it’s too early to say whether making El Conde was a cathartic experience, but he admits that: “I think it can be very liberating if you make fun of [Pinochet].” He says it’s too soon to say whether making El Conde has been a cathartic experience, but he concedes this: “Once you’re able to film him and use the satire as an element, I think it can be very liberating when you make fun of him.”Pinochet remains a polarising figure among older generations, so what is the mood in Chile ahead of the release?

“As soon as the movie was announced and the trailer was released, some people were saying, How could you shoot Pinochet, it’s not funny,” he says. “Some people said, How could you shoot Pinochet, it’s not funny,” he says. can be a very sharp knife and people may react in different ways. It’s great that art and film can do that. “The younger generations are less connected to it,” he says, “but I would think there is no nostalgia for the Pinochet years and he’s considered in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini and the biggest psychopaths of last century.” “The younger generations are less connected to it,” he says, “but I would think there’s no nostalgia for the Pinochet years and he’s considered in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini and the biggest psychopaths of the last century.”The lessons of history must never be forgotten, Larrain says, citing the lurch to the right in Argentina, Hungary and Italy, Jair Bolsonaro’s recent leadership in Brazil, and the delicate limbo in Spain following recent elections.

“It’s complicated, because we know that fascism starts with fear and then it moves to violence,” he says. “It’s dangerous, a complicated time, so we have to keep our eyes wide open.”

Following its Venice premiere,

El Conde will get a limited theatrical release in the US, UK, Chile, Argentina and Mexico from September 7 and launch on Netflix on September 15.The lowdown on all the 2023 Venice Film Festival titles

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