Pablo Larrain and ‘El Conde’ Cast Say Portraying Pinochet as a Vampire Is ‘Necessary’ Amid Global Right-Wing Resurgence

As Chile prepares to mark 50 years since the Sept. 11, 1973 coup by Augusto Pinochet, Chilean auteur Pablo Larraín is back in Venice – following “Spencer” in 2021 – with scathing satire “El Conde,” in which Pinochet, a symbol of global fascism, resurfaces as a 250-year old vampire living in a rundown rural mansion after faking his death.

“Pinochet had never been portrayed in film or TV before,” Larrain said. “The approach we chose led us to combine elements of farce and satire,” he added. “It’s probably the only way. If you avoid satire there is a risk of creating empathy, and that’s not acceptable.”

A local journalist asked how the cast thinks the potent allegorical film will play in Chile. In a vote last May, Chileans rejected a proposal to rewrite the country’s dictatorship-era constitution. In other words, Pinochet still seems to have a lot of local fans.

“It will either be loved or hated; there will be no middle ground,” noted actress Gloria Münchmeyer, who plays Pinochet’s wife Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez.

“This is a film that can start a national conversation,” said Paula Luchsinger, who plays an undercover nun named Carmencita who ultimately tries to take Pinochet down. “There is a resurgence of the extreme right in Chile and this is a necessary film because it reminds us that Pinochet went unpunished.”

She added, “It’s also necessary because the wind of the extreme right isn’t just blowing in Chile. It’s blowing around the world.”

Beautifully shot in black-and-white by ace cinematographer Ed Lachman, “El Conde” stars revered 87-year-old Chilean actor Jaime Vadell in the role of Pinochet, who in reality died at the age of 91 in 2006, unpunished and rich. Vadell was unable to make the trek to Venice. During Pinochet’s 17-year regime, which began with a bloody military coup in 1973, more than 3,000 people died or disappeared due to political violence in Chile, which had previously experienced a long history of democracy.

Larraín has previously tackled the topic of Pinochet in “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem,” as well as in 2012’s Oscar-nominated “No.” The Netflix original film will get a limited theatrical release on Sept. 7 in a few countries (U.S., U.K., Chile, Argentina and Mexico) and drop on Netflix globally on Sept. 15.

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