In the film “El Conde,” director Pablo Larraín and cinematographer Edward Lachman create a visually stunning and politically charged exploration of the legacy of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Larraín conceived the idea for the film as a way to confront the lasting impact of Pinochet’s violent regime on Chile, portraying him as a literal vampire. Lachman’s cinematography adds depth and texture to the story, paying homage to classic cinema while also incorporating elements of gothic and vampire films.
One of the standout moments in the film is when Pinochet and other characters are depicted flying. This practical effect was achieved utilizing acrobats from Colombia who could perform flying stunts on a 180-foot crane. Lachman, who operated the crane himself, describes how shooting these scenes in the actual environment added a unique and weighty feeling to the shots. Larraín explains that the concept of Pinochet as a flying vampire was inspired a blend of pop culture references such as Nosferatu, Batman, and Superman, combined with a political subtext.
Another important visual element of the film is the use of black and white cinematography. Lachman reveals that Larraín was able to secure permission from Netflix to shoot the film entirely in black and white, rather than converting it in post-production. This decision allowed Lachman to use a specially designed monochromatic camera on a 15-foot technocrane. The use of black and white filters, along with modifications to the contrast and latitude, created a distinct and cinematic look reminiscent of classic black and white films.
In the scenes depicting Pinochet’s adult children gathering for their inheritance, the cinematography takes on a shift from gothic vampirism to contemporary family satire. Larraín emphasizes the importance of visually representing the unity of the family, while also showcasing the individual dynamics and motivations of each character.
Overall, “El Conde” showcases the brilliance of Larraín and Lachman’s collaboration, combining stunning visuals, political commentary, and references to cinematic classics. The film provides a thought-provoking exploration of power, legacy, and the lingering effects of dictatorship in a visually captivating and emotionally impactful way.
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