Film: El Conde (The Count)
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Jaime Vadell, Stella Gonet, Gloria Münchmeyer, Alfredo Castro, Paula Luchsinger, Antonia Zegers and Amparo Noguera
The film El Conde is a satire, a vampire film, a history lesson and, above all, about existential crisis. For a 250-year-old vampire, named Claude Pinoche, who is also a former dictator of Chile, it draws a chapter from history, presenting the former corrupt ruler Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in flesh and blood.
Pinochet died at 91, but in this black comedy he takes the form of a vampire to reflect upon his bad deeds. The lead actor Jaime Vadell pulls off Pinochet’s real-life appearance for the screen well and also keeps the viewers hooked as he justifies his corrupt and unruly actions as a dictator. Just before the climax, the narrator is revealed, which for the longest time viewers believe to be Lucia.
Claude’s partner in crime Lucia, played by Gloria Münchmeyer, in many scenes appears to be more villainous than the villain-hero! From addressing the 1973 Chilean coup d’état, to embezzlement charges against the family, to misusing funds from the NGO, CEMA Chile, the once-powerful family of Chile is held accountable for many crimes, including the loss of innocent lives.
Add to that a dash of humour and monochrome dramatic retelling of events with a little bit of fiction, which makes it an act of cinematic brilliance. The film’s per-climax and climax is unexpected even for the best of cinema buffs. The pace is deliberately kept slow and doesn’t hamper the screenplay. Paula Luchsinger, who plays the sacrificial nun, Carmencita, investigating into the family’s secret accounts for wealth, is put to task to steal money for the church.
The background keeps the gothic theme going and some scenes, such as a vampire falling down due to old age, newly turned vampire nun, Carmen, trying to fly or Claude dancing to an old tune when his zeal to live comes back, are all beautifully picturised.
Stella Gonet, who plays a surprise character in the second half, is an impersonation of a very close political ally of Augusto. The writing and direction leaves you in awe, it is no surprise then that Pablo Larraín won the Best Screenplay Award at The Venice Film Festival, 2023. Even if you leave the historical relevance aside, the director has brought freshness to gothic and vampire dramas!