El Conde | Review by: Benjamin Garrett
With “Spencer”, Pablo Larrain gave us a haunting interpretation of a pivotal weekend in Princess Diana’s life, taking artistic liberty to draw from true events. “El Conde” finds the director taking his artistic interpretations a step further, with a vampiric fable using real historical figures and events.
This satire pairs Larrain’s signature dreamlike moodiness with a darkly funny skewering of the real Chilean dictator at the heart of its story. Anyone going into this expecting traditional humour will be sorely disappointed. This is a dry and melancholic account of a fascist dictator who refuses to let go of life. The satirical elements are employed to ridicule his life and the stain he left on his country’s history. That’s not to say this movie won’t make you laugh, because I did find myself chuckling a number of times. It’s just that garnering a laugh is not the film’s primary focus.
The striking, colourless monochromatic palette creates a rich atmosphere that perfectly encapsulates the story being told. Through the absence of colour, Larrain and cinematographer Edward Lachman have given the film a beautiful artistic quality that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. There’s plenty of graphic violence and gore, but the endless shades of gray strip away what could’ve felt gratuitous. The flight sequences in particular are among the most visually stunning moments in any film this year.
El Conde is a gorgeous, ethereal and quietly humorous satire that cleverly drives a stake through the heart of a real life Chilean Dictator. Larrain’s directorial vision is as sharp as ever, and although it may be too dry or graphic for some, this is undeniably one of the most unique films of the year.