El Condé review: An unruly and disturbing story of Chile’s Pinochet

Gabriela Silva
Chilean actor Jaime Vadell in El CondéNetflix

For the first time, Netflix has premiered a Chilean movie. El Condé centered on the country’s dark historical figure Augusto Pinochet. But this black-and-white story has a unique vision with Pinochet never having died and has instead lived his years as a vampire in isolation.

For any Chilean, they have either lived through or been told the stories of August Pinochet’s coup d’etat against President Salvadore Allende in 1973. It became a historical moment as the Democratic Socialist President was forced out of office before taking his own life.

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Instead of being known as President, Pinochet became a ruthless dictator. While he did help propel the country economically, Chileans often remember the countless disappearances of Chilean citizens, deaths, and stories of torture. Not to mention the robbery of government money.

Pablo Larraín’s El Condé offers a gothic vision of the infamous dictator as a centuries-old vampire who’s ready to move on, but is he really? El Condé takes well-known facts about Pinochet’s reign and turns them into cinematic satire that either Chileans will laugh at or be disgruntled by. Here’s a full review of El Condé.

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Chilean actor Alfredo CastroNetflix

Haunting yet beautiful scenes make El Condé visually appealing

The concept of Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) as a vampire came from Pablo Larraín’s fascination with the dictator in a cape and developed a black-and-white world that felt disconnected from reality in El Condé.

In El Condé, Larraín created a world of chilling darkness and isolation. All the while still portraying Chile’s beauty and barren landscape to the south with the help of Ed Lachman.

The director explained in the press release that black and white allowed an accumulation of ideas as Pinochet’s story had to span 250 years. One can say the lack of color also mimicked the reality of Pinochet’s true form and lack of heart. A dictator who relished in murder and a wife who stole from the rich and poor.

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While watching El Condé, one of the most mesmerizing scenes is Pinochet taking to the skies and flying above the lights of Santiago, Chile’s capital city. He maneuvers quickly in the night, cape flapping, and a quiet city unaware of the heinous monster that still lives.

The beauty of the cinematography also translates to the remote south of Chile, where the vampire Pinochet resides with his wife and butler, his former aid during his dictatorship. His once glorious palace of riches and jewels is no more.

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He and his wife are left in a run-down mansion, with broken floors, and a cold aura. El Condé’s overall cinematography is breathtaking and ties into the underlying satire of the warping of facts of Pinochet.

Jaime Vadell in El CondéNetflix

El Condé takes facts about the dictator and twists them into sometimes comical satire

At the heart of El Condé is the story of the grand Augusto Pinochet. In this fictionalized version of his life, the Frenchman Pinochet faked his death, ventured to Chile, reigned in power, and faked his death again.

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Centuries later, the now older vampire is tired of living, calls his children, and is disgruntled that he’s always remembered as a thief.

Some audiences might not realize the satire behind Pinochet being annoyed that he is known as a thief but has no issue being a monstrous killer in the movie. In real life, his wife Lucia was better known for being the thief. Having stolen money, expensive goods, and jewels from the rich and poor under the pretense of helping Chile.

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At the same time, it’s fitting that he never once in the movie neglected that he enjoyed killing people. It fits well into the concept of Pinochet being a vampire.

When it comes to his backstory, it feels far too whimsical and out of left field. Pinochet was first a Frenchman who learned he was a vampire. He steals Marie Antoinette’s head, and ventures to a country with no leadership – Chile.

However, El Condé doesn’t spend too much time examining what happened during the dictatorship. It never touches upon the atrocities Pinochet committed, and instead fast forwards to the current needed timeline. In some way, it lacked the needed depth to fully understand Pinochet for what he truly was – a monster.

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El Condé has multiple scenarios of his storyline and his family that audiences truly need to know more about beforehand to understand the gravity of black comedy.

The movie pokes fun at Pinochet’s children, who only seek money and claim they are penniless. When in real life, they were rich beyond belief.

One of the unique aspects of the movie is the inclusion of Margaret Thatcher, the once British Prime Minister. She appears as a “first love/mother” figure who realigns Pinochet’s desires, as she was an ally during his real-life dictatorship.

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El Condé review score: 4/5

The movie is complex, dark, and masterfully created. It can be compelling for Chileans and audiences, regardless of whether they are aware of the true historical facts. El Condé’s cast is a golden representation of Chile’s entertainment business.

Jaime Vadell, Gloria Münchmeyer, and a majority of the cast were alive during Pinochet’s dictatorship, adding needed depth behind the camera. El Condé is a devoted representation of Chilean cinema while adding a unique light on the country’s bloody past with a gothic twist.

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You can check out some of our other Netflix coverage below:

The Night Agent Season 2 | The Gentlemen | Will there be Firefly Lane Season 3? | Sex Education Season 4 | Monster Season 2 | Will there be Ginny and Georgia Season 3? | Black Mirror Season 7 | All the Light We Cannot See | Stranger Things Season 5 | Chicken Run 2 | Florida Man Season 2 | Obsession Season 2 | The Sandman Season 2 | The Lincoln Lawyer Season 3 | Heartstopper Season 3

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About The Author

Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Fordham. Senior TV and Movies Writer for Dexerto covering Netflix, Disney+, K-Dramas and everything in between. Previous TV Writer for Showbiz Cheatsheet and List Witer for Screenrant. Any inquiries email at gabriela.silva@dexerto.com