COLONIA (2015)

ROLE:  Paul Schäfer

GENRE: Drama/Thriller

COUNTRY:  Germany/Luxembourg/France

RELEASE:  September 13, 2015 - TIFF


Set against the backdrop of the 1973 coup that toppled Chilean president Salvador Allende and brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, the story follows  a European couple who fall foul of a brutal religious cult that is in cahoots with the regime.

Arrested in the aftermath of the coup, German student activist Daniel  ends up in the clutches of German émigré preacher Paul Schäfer, an ex-Nazi whose ostensibly charitable religious settlement, the Colonia Dignidad, more closely resembles a prison camp than a utopian idyll.

Barbed wire and watchtowers encircle the cult’s compound, while the men and women inside – dressed for special occasions in folky looking lederhosen and dirndls – are strictly segregated. Secretly, Pinochet’s goons use the colony as a torture camp.

Daniel’s girlfriend, plucky Lufthansa stewardess Lena, has little inkling of the horrors that lie in store but is determined to rescue him and infiltrates the sealed-off camp, posing as a believer.

Cast & Credit Details

Emma Watson - Lena
Daniel Brühl - Daniel
Michael Nyqvist - Paul Schäfer
Richenda Carey - Gisela
Vicky Krieps - Ursel
Jeanne Werner - Doro
Julian Ovenden - Roman
August Zirner - German Ambassador
Martin Wuttke - Niels Biedermann
Nicolás Barsoff - Jorge

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Director - Florian Gallenberger
Screenplay - Torsten Wenzel & Florian Gallenberger
Cinematography - Kolja Brandt
Music - André Dziezuk & Fernando Velázquez

110 minutes

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View Premiere and Promotional Photos

Visit the movie's official web site

View YouTube interview with Michael

Production Notes:

Michael: "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. It's hard for me to understand the character because almost everything he has done is terrible and unthinkable."

"Many actors were actually hesitant to play this role," Herrmann (producer) said. Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, who became a household name thanks to his starring role in the "Millennium” trilogy, was an early favorite, but he was committed to other projects. "But having him was so critical to the film’s dynamic that we re-scheduled his shooting days to enable him to play the part. Having him was a gift for us!" Herrmann said. "His first day in front of the camera was at the beginning of our third week of shooting,"

Director Gallenberger said. "It wasn't easy to start filming without ever having seen the antagonist, but when Michael Nyqvist appeared on the set, every thing was clear immediately. His incredible physical presence was made more ominous by our great makeup artist Waldemar Pokromski, who transformed him into a Paul Schäfer lookalike - it was fascinating. Michael was not afraid to play a character that is oppressive and repulsive. We were all impressed by his performance." Indeed, Colonia presents Paul Schäfer as a horrifying man but one who believes in what he’s doing. "You have to look into your own abyss in order to perform the character of a villain," Nyqvist adds.

Publicity Stills
Film Comments

"Colonia is an effective thriller, not only in terms of how Leah will find Daniel (who smartly uses a ruse to be largely left alone), but also because of its peek into the horrors of physical and psychological torture in the name of God. Nyqvist is the standout here, with long, greasy gray hair while lending Schäfer a disturbingly calm demeanor that everyone knows hides an explosiveness underneath. Brühl is magnetic as his Daniel is ever-watchful yet intensely in his head." ...Tricia Olszewski, Washington City Paper

"Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's difficult to shake. Strikingly well played by an international cast, the film's dark themes get under the skin. German director-cowriter Florian Gallenberger has a skilful eye that draws the audience in, focusing on characters to provide a strong emotional kick... Watson and Bruhl deliver remarkably grounded performances as real people caught up in unimaginable horrors. Underneath the intensity, both actors are likeable and tenacious, and together they have very strong chemistry. Meanwhile, the always superb Nyqvist brings a genuinely unsettling nastiness to his all-powerful father figure." ...Rich Cline, Contact Music

"From a slow opening The Colony builds to a thrilling finale reminiscent of Argo. Its main appeal is the sheer madness of the story, particularly Nyqvist’s mentalist performance... Michael Nyqvist brilliantly plays the camp commander, leading the unhappy bunch like a Teutonic Jim Jones. Schäfer uses violence and religious mania to keep the inhabitants in check, leaving him free to abuse the children in his care. In one remarkable scene he attempts to raise a man from the dead." ..Ed Owen, The Arts Desk

"Michael Nyqvist is suitably monstrous as cult leader Paul Schäfer, an ex-Nazi and convicted child abuser." ...Stephen Carty, Radio Times

"Schafer is a sinister, reprehensible tyrant. However, he’s a character we simply do not explore enough of, not quite utilizing the talent of the brilliant Nyqvist, who is tasked with embodying him. He is the story, it’s his life and experiences which, though irrepressibly dark, lay the foundations for this piece." ...Stefan Pape,

"As Schäfer, Nyqvist - sporting a perfectly dreadful mullet - is truly despicable. His aggressively chauvinistic language - from "cow", to "slut", to much worse - lands the desired blows." ...Matthew Anderson, Cinevue

"Schäfer is played with effective imperious chilliness by Michael Nyqvist who also manages an unnerving resemblance to the real-life figure." ...Glenn Kenny,

"Nyqvist is also quite chilling as Schaefer. His scenes are among the best in the film, and had the movie focused more on Shaefer and his dirty dealings it might have been a tougher but better film." ...Chris Bumbray,

Colonia Dignidad is a camp run with an iron fist and piercing stare by German expat Paul Schäfer - an outstanding Michael Nyqvist." ...Marty Mapes, Movie Habit

Watson and Bruhl’s performances are a big part of this because we align ourselves with them fiercely. We want them to survive Schäfer’s lunacy—itself a brilliant bit of villainy from Nyqvist - and the ways they must undermine his rule are suspenseful in their brutal intrigue thanks to Oscar-winning co-writer/director Florian Gallenberger‘s vision." ...Jared Mobarak, The Film Stage

"The Colony has a hero worth rooting for; but we all know the best heroes shine when they’re up against villainous counterpart who’s just as good. Step in Michael Nyqvist: chilling, intimidating and bearing a strikingly disturbing resemblance to the real life villain he’s playing. From a performance standpoint, it fires on all cylinders." ...Kieran Fisher, The Flickering Myth

"Michael Nyqvist stands out as cult leader Paul Schäfer, a narcissist who keeps complete control over his several hundred followers. The camp itself, miles from any town, is completely self-contained with its own power supply and food production. Nyqvist presents Schäfer as a charismatic sadist who manages to convince his followers step by step into blind obedience." ...Raymond Johnston, Prague TV

"Michael Nyqvist makes a strong interpretation of Schäfer, which in turn is reinforced by the fact that the film is based on real events." ...Robert Jonsson,