Colonia Dignidad, an estate 350 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile, was a settlement that was used as a center for torture, extermination of political prisoners and training of paramilitaries during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, between 1973 and 1990. Long before of that, since 1961, the ex-Nazi Paul Schäfer he installed his "micro-dictatorship" on the site, where for many years there were child rapes, slavery, among other atrocities. Chilean filmmakers Joaquín Cociña and Cristobal León were inspired by these events for the creation of The Wolf House, a look from the animation in stop motion to the horrors perpetrated in this enclave by the leader of that sect.
The Wolf House has reaped a series of recognitions abroad. Among the most outstanding are the Caligari Prize, one of the sections of the Berlin Festival, as well as a mention of the jury in Annecy, the most important animated film exhibition in the world. While it prepares its route by other international cinematographic appointments, Cociña and León's prime opera still continues in billboard in several cinemas of Chile. The film will also be shown in Mexico and Colombia by the distributor Interior 13, which has not yet released the release date for those countries.
The film presents Maria, a young woman who takes refuge in a house after escaping from a German religious sect in Chile. As if in a dream, the house reacts to her feelings and makes her stay a nightmare. The idea was born 10 years ago, according to León. The Wolf House It should initially be part of a trilogy of short films, preceded by works entitled Luis Y Lucia. Years passed and both directors began to launch ideas and so, little by little, the figure of Schäfer Y Colonia Dignidad they appropriated the movie. "In a way, the issue of Colonia Dignidad was a perverse link between Germany and Chile," explains Cociña via telephone.
In that same stage, the filmmakers heard the rumor about the existence of a film archive of Colonia Dignidad that, supposedly, was made up of documentary material that they falsified to project an idealized image of the enclave abroad. The visual artists also gave free rein to their imagination about the appearance of an animated film, produced by Schäfer, within that film library. Cociña says it was like imagining a fake documentary, almost like getting into a macabre role-playing game. "We imagine Shäffer, the leader of the colony, like a kind of Walt Disney. We imagined ourselves and asked what movie he would have made and we set out to do it, "Leon adds.
The film appeals to the metaphor with its characters and feeds on fantasy elements such as fairy tales. Characters of this genre, such as the wolf or stories such as The three Little Pigs, in addition to the inspiration that the book represented Nazi literature in America (Anagrama, 2016), by Roberto Bolaño, served to land the perverse and terrifying reality behind fiction. "It seems to me that fairy tales in general are very good social metaphors. We thought about how to make a closed, nightmarish circuit, but one that had a basis in reality. Colonia Dignidad became an ideal context anchor to develop the idea. We are interested in bringing this type of issues through a film that seems more fantasy, so we can raise issues as socially and politically terrifying as what happened in this enclave, "says Cociña.
A sequence shot without models
The realization of The Wolf House started in 2013 and ended last February. It was not a normal filming process, since the film was filmed in 12 museums and galleries in Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Hamburg, among other places. They installed their workshop for two months in each of the places and went to work in front of the people, as in an exhibition. Another detail of the film and its creation, is that everything you see on the tape is in real size. They are not models like the ones usually used in stop motion, the technique that pretends the movement of static objects by means of a succession of photographed images. "We were walking through very different places, with very different architectures. The most challenging thing, since we did the process that way, was to maintain consistency during those five years, "says León.
The filmmakers opted for the sequence shot to tell the story in a house where everything can be transformed, where everything is built and crumbling in a claustrophobic, stalking and sinister atmosphere. That kind of detail, León says jokingly, tends to come out naturally, almost like an aesthetic of terror that makes it unconscious. "The movie was supposed to be an evolution from flat to three-dimensional. That obviously got messed up in the walk and I think it was good that it was messy, because it made the film more dynamic, "Cociña reveals.
Although the production was experimental, the filmmakers set the rules to face the shooting. One of them was that a large part of the materials they used were waste. Cociña and León manage to unite the painting with real scenes and a technique similar to paper mache, but using packing tape, liquid glue and cardboard. "We made a decalogue at the beginning of production. He had rules about the use of paint in front of the camera, that everything could be transformed, the color is symbolic, camera movements between frame and frame, the film never goes black, among others. We put a lot of rules to never get bored, to have the possibility to change in the workshop, but be aware at what moment of the film we were and where I was going, "ends Cociña.