The new film by Pablo Larrain, El Conde, deals with Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, in an unexpected manner. The film reveals that Pinochet is a 250-year-old vampire, and you might think he died in 2006, but he is still very much alive, living in a secluded place on the outskirts of Chile. It’s a provocative idea, trying to bring out the satirical humor associated with dictatorships and the familial and political underpinnings surrounding Pinochet himself.
El Conde is filled with violence and gore, all hinting at the bloodshed during Pinochet’s 1973 coup and the human rights violations during his reign. By showing him as a vampire, a creature who feasts on human blood, the metaphor of politicians ‘sucking the soul’ out of people is nicely brought out in the open. Jaime Vadell delivers a striking portrayal of a vampirical spoof of Pinochet with an uncanny resemblance to the actual figure, supporting the film’s commentary. Here is a closer look at his character, ‘The Count’:
Jaime Vadell as Augusto Pinochet, aka ‘The Count’:
As per the voiceover of the film, which knew the gory secrets beneath Pinochet’s public persona, he liked to be addressed as ‘The Count,’ and there is a good reason behind that title. Pinochet was a vampire, born somewhere around France during the reign of Louis XVI. Soon, the royalty was overthrown during the French Revolution, and a twenty-something Pinochet had figured out that he wasn’t human. His urge to bite people in the neck had made him infamous, and people had tried to murder the vampire Pinochet, but he survived. He faked his own death and changed identities. That was the only way he could run away from the French army. Ambitious and with a lot of time on his hands, he ran from place to place, tasting the blood of people from many regions, and finally arrived in Chile. It was here that his fantasy of becoming king materialized.
That’s the origin story of the Chilean dictator. He had seen it all during his 250 years on earth, and now his will to go on was dwindling. Amidst international pressure, the best thing he could do was fake his death again to escape the torturous punishments that seemed to be waiting for him. Now, he lived in a secluded house near the shores, with only his wife, Lucia Hiriart, and his butler, Fyodor.
Pinochet’s children, five in number, arrive at the secluded house to meet Pinochet, as news had reached them that their father had decided to pass on to whatever heaven vampires go to after they die. Now, the conflict was not who was going to get what from Pinochet, but more like, would Pinochet really ever die? Hiriart certainly requested Fyodor to make sure he didn’t. There were also the serial killings in Chile, where someone murdered several people and took out their hearts. Who else, apart from Pinochet, the vampire, required human hearts in his diet? Well, Fyodor had been bitten by Pincochet, so technically, he, too, had turned into a vampire. The voiceover was gracious enough to let us know all the details. So, were the killings carried out by Pinochet or Fyodor? Logically speaking, Pinochet wouldn’t feast on human hearts, as they would start to age him in reverse. It would be self-sabotage, as he was suicidal. It was only later that we learned that Fyodor dressed as his master and went on a killing spree, for he had his own ambitions of living with Hiriart after the Count’s passing.
Pinochet knew all about it but didn’t really mind. See, emotions in vampires work differently. His primary preoccupation was being honored by having his bust in the presidential office. He even visited political offices to see if they had installed his statue anywhere. But alas! Pinochet was not remembered as a valiant leader who got rid of the ‘Bolshevik infestation’ in Chile. He might not have the best of relations with the Catholic Church, which sent their best nun, Carmen, to perform an exorcism on him. She came as an accountant, invited by one of the five children, to sort out the property matters. While trying to deal with the children, she wanted to find Pinochet’s offshore accounts, where he had stashed all his riches. Pinochet was immediately attracted to her and perhaps considered leaving the mortal coil. Hiriart had her own desire to get bitten by him and not by Fyodor, perhaps to be a vampire of a higher order. She had ensured up until now that his food was mixed with traces of human blood to invigorate Pinochet.
Pinochet fell in front of Carmen when, in fact, he wanted to show his virility. Then, another chapter started in the Count’s life. He flew away on a killing spree of his own. While Fyodor had been quick to murder his victims, Pinochet was cruel and clumsy in his murderous endeavors. He just seemed to have forgotten how to kill. He was never an artist, but a butcher. His aesthetic sense was reflected when he showed Carmen the severed head of Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France. He had preserved it for so long after seeing Marie guillotined during the revolution in the 18th century. After gaining vitality, he managed to seduce the nun herself, whose methods of exorcism didn’t work. Pinochet bit her, and this was just a bit too immoral for his standard as well, which is why his mother had to come all the way down to remind him of the limits he might have forgotten.
The voiceover that had been providing subtext up until now belonged to none other than Margaret Thatcher, Pinochet’s mother. She had been bitten by a man named Strigoi, who had raped her and left her with vampirism in southern France. Margaret had no option but to leave Pinochet in an orphanage while she became England’s Prime Minister, centuries later. Pinochet was caught in England once, and there, Margaret might have helped him get a pardon and return to Chile out of motherly love. She couldn’t stand the intimacy between him and the nun, so she returned to remind Pinochet of his first love. Pinochet’s kids were worried that he might cancel all his plans to die and that they would never get their share. Fyodor guillotined Carmen for her attempt to take away the wealth of his master.
Later, Pinochet killed Fyodor for having the audacity to kill Carmen. He had been irked by his assassination attempt, as Fyodor was following Hiriart’s order, and now Pinochet had to put an end to both of them. The butler and the cheating wife were both gone. Pinochet should have taken it out on Margaret, as she was the one who had planned Carmen’s arrival to revive his lust for life. She just didn’t expect Pinochet to develop feelings for her. The children were left with nothing, and Pinochet was left with Margaret. She ensured that her son feasted on all the hearts available in the freezer and grew younger. Now, she could start a new life with him in Chile. Pinochet became a young boy, and Margaret undertook the task of raising him properly this time, hinting at the possibility that Pinochet would again be Chile’s dictator. This time, he would not be known as a thief but as a valiant soldier, as he had always desired.