A few days after Matteo Garrone’s Io capitano (if you missed it, here is the review of Io capitano by Matteo Garrone), whose prize collection we zeroed in on at Venice 2023 (the film was awarded for best director and best emerging actor), we return with our thoughts to the Lido to talk about El Conde by Pablo Larrain, presented in competition at the 80th Venice Film Festival and fresh winner of the best screenplay award.
Coming to Netflix starting this week, from Friday, 15th of September, the Chilean author’s new effort is a horror film with dark comedy overtones which imagines a parallel universe inspired by the history of Chile: the protagonist, in fact, is dictator Augusto Pinochet, a worldwide symbol of fascism, here slightly different from how the history books tell us (a Marvel Studiosof the Saga of the Multiverse would call it a Variant) because he is portrayed in the guise of a vampire living in hiding in a ruined mansion on the frigid southern tip of the continent.
The affair is triggered, however, when, having reached the ripe old age of two hundred and fifty, Pinochet decides to stop drinking blood and thus renounce eternal life: he can no longer bear that the world remembers him as a thief, a scoundrel, a criminal, a demon. However, despite the disappointing and opportunistic nature of his family-other vampires, but thirsty for money-an encounter with a young nun on a mission for the Holy Church is likely to rekindle in him that passion for immortality that time seemed to have consumed.
El Conde: if the former dictator is an old vampire
Going into that sub-strand of titles that, in relatively recent times, have used a wide variety of genres to re-tell the myth and figure of the vampire by updating it to modern cinema, such as the Iranian A girl walks home alone at night, the New Zealander What we do in the shadow, the Swedish Let the Right One In and its Hollywood remake Blood Story and so on (waiting for the remake of Nosferatu by Robert Eggers, finally at the starting tapes after years of waiting and postponing), Pablo Larrain signs a fake biopic that is as inventive as it gets in which the monochromatic chiaroscuro of black and white brings out the polarizing aspect of the narrated characters, for whom shades of gray do not exist.
After the tragic and biographical Jacqueline Kennedy by Natalie Portman in Jackie, the dazzlingly fluid and imaginative Ema of Mariana by Girolamo, via the recent fictional and televised and supernatural interlude of the Lisey of Julianne Moore from Lisey’s Story, Pablo Larrain’s cinema looks back to the birth spirits of Dickensian memory already so well addressed in the black tale his Lady Diana seen in Spencer with Kristen Stewart. The 2021 film is reconnected with through the ‘allegorical biopic,’ to dispense with any kind of historical veracity by relying on the forms of the Kafkaesque thriller a la Roman Polanski, oscillating between hilarious oneiricism and suggestions of a melancholy, suffocating gloom.
Larrain’s Pinochet, vampire hilariously interpreted by Jaime Vedell, always tired and/or annoyed by something, shuffling from one corner of the frame to another with his walker, watching (almost) indifferent to the machinations of his family to seize his secret fortunes and remembers with (almost) nostalgia the good old days when he used to slaughter his political enemies and organize coups (we can well imagine him talking to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill and the other characters from the phenomenal Fairytale by Aleksandr Sokurov), undoubtedly represents a must-see for Netflix fans looking for something very different from the usual Netflix movie.
And the crossover with The Crown is just around the corner when…no, we can’t add more…