Florian Gallenberger's movie about Colonia Dignidad, which was used as a torture centre during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, has caused something of a stir in Luxembourg where it is being partly shot. This is namely because of its leading actors: Emma Watson and Michael Nyqvist, known for his role as the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the film adaptation of Stieg Larrson's Millenium trilogy.
Speaking to the Luxemburger Wort, the 24-year-old explained that she nearly didn't accept the role at all.
“I was slightly reluctant to read the script because of the subject matter. I thought it was going to be heavy,” the actress said, adding that when she did read it, she was pleasantly surprised. “The script was fast-paced. I couldn't put it down. I read it in one sitting. It's a thriller. I think Florian has managed to balance really well darkness, lightness, heaviness and pace.”
Watson, who began her acting career aged nine playing Hermione in the children's film adaptations of the Harry Potter stories, said that among the attractions were the unconventional story and the remarkable character of Lena, a German national who, along with her partner, Daniel, get caught up in the military coup of General Pinochet in Chile. The film follows Lena as she embarks on an odyssey to be reunited with her man at the notorious Colonia Dignidad.
A very courageous woman
“I think it's about how far you're willing to go for someone you love. The pressures and tensions of real life, how they act upon a relationship. For me, it's really about a very courageous woman,” Watson said.
The young actress said that the character offered something very different to the roles she had accepted in the past.
“The narrative structure we're used to seeing is the damsel in distress rescued by a knight in shining armour. But this is a story where a young woman goes to save her man. That immediately appealed because you get to be proactive, you get to play a character who really steers the storyline and guides the pace of the story instead of being reactionary and passive. It presented me with a really exciting opportunity and one which is unusual.”
In preparation for the role, Watson visited the Villa Baviera, formerly known as Colonia Dignidad in the Maule Region of Chile, which she said had changed little since the '70s.
When she first saw the set for the film, she said she was “freaked out” by the attention to detail. “It really feels exactly the same. The minute I walked on-set, I texted Florian and said 'this is crazy!'. It's nice to think we're trying to tell a story in the most authentic way possible. Even the props are from there. The apron I wear is from the colony!”.
Watson is keen not to squander her first leading role. To make her portrayal as convincing as possible she said she asked Michael Nyqvist, who plays cult leader and Lena's tormentor, Paul Schäfer, to “throw whatever you're going to throw at me and see how I respond.”
She said: “I was genuinely terrified, I had no idea what was coming next. It creates a really exciting performance because there's something truthful there.”
Nyqvist, meanwhile is relishing his role. “No matter how you look at it, he's a devil. I had to venture deep into my own dark corners and open the hidden doors there to play a character like Paul Schäfer,” the actor said, adding: “It's hard for me to understand the character because almost everything he has done is terrible and unthinkable.”
Watson admitted that the project presented some “tough emotional scenes” and she was wary of finding ways to switch off after filming. “I often have to play music in the car journey on the way home, go for a walk or a run because you carry an energy with you and if you're not careful it starts to seep into other parts of your life and you have to find a way to draw a line and cut off where your life starts and work ends,” she said.
That said, Watson seems compelled by the film and the role of actress, and not just for the pay cheque, but for the challenge.
“The truth is I'm happy to do my job for free...It's about something that challenges me and makes me a better actress and more than that that pushes me on as a person. I was terrified to go to Chile and go to the colony. I found it difficult to absorb some of the things I was reading in the script. There's something about that – I wanted to be challenged.”
Colonia Dignidad is co-produced by Luxembourg based Iris Productions SA. It is expected to be released in September 2015.
The intensity of what happened in Chile has invaded everybody. Including the producer, Benjamin Herrmann, who assures that the psychological violence suffered by the colonists was brutal. And Emma Watson, leaving the crowd of extras, covered by a long coat of black feathers above a dress with white polka dots. Half an hour after she was wrapped in comfortable clothes and cowboy boots.
She can't stop to gesticulate while talking, with her hands, with her eyes. With her neck and her nose (Huh?! Was she possessed by the colonists or something?). Beyond the horror, the thriller tells a love story. "How far are you willing to go for the one you love." The courage of a woman whose role is unusual. "I am impressed by the courage of the female character in a narrative that isn't common these days, the woman who saves the man."
The place, in the Slate Museum of Luxembourg, startled the actress the first time she saw it. It is an exact copy of the original and is only one of the locations for the film, which will finish shooting before Christmas: "I sent a message to the director to tell him how spooky the similarity was." Watson, who spent the last years in university, sees this place as the frame where one can develop a character from beginning to end. "Being Lena is a different and incredibly liberating experience." Exhausting too. Each day, everyone needs to disconnect from this history, as real as almost-forgotten. "But it was something that happened," Watson judgment, "and must be told."
Source: El pais