With a unique premise carried to compelling execution, ‘El Conde,’ the Netflix Chilean horror-comedy film, revolves around the country’s most infamous politician, Augusto Pinochet. Depicting Pinochet as a born vampire who develops a dislike for revolutions after Louis XVI’s reign, the film follows the Count’s life of desolation after his dictatorship over Chile ends, sending him to life past his glory, where he waits for death to come. Stuck in a desert town with his butler, Fyodor, and wife, Lucía, Pinochet’s bleak life takes a turn when his kids bring an accountant to the picture to look through the finances his violent past has left behind.
Due to the film’s employment of such recognizable historical figures, paired with its black-and-white visualization choice, viewers must be wondering when and where ‘El Conde’s’ story unfolds. If so, here is everything you need to know about the same! SPOILERS AHEAD!
When Does El Conde Take Place?
‘El Conde’ opens with a rich history of Augusto “Count” Pinochet’s past, with a start in France, where he lived at a Parisian orphanage during the late 1700s. In his youth, Pinochet fought in Louis XVI’s army until the other soldiers discovered him for his bloodsucking ways. Soon, the French Revolution took over, which led to Pinochet’s abandonment of his king. However, after watching Marie Antoinette’s execution by guillotine in 1793, Pinochet dedicated his life to crushing revolutions.
Decades later, Pinochet, desperate to be a king, arrived in South America, where 1935 saw his early attempts to overtake Chile. By 1973, Pinochet successfully staged a coup d’état against the existing socialist Chilean government under President Salvador Allende’s rule and began his dictatorship.
Nonetheless, the plot only uses Pinochet’s journey through history as the set-up and the backstory and focuses on the aftermath of his historic life. The bulk of ‘El Conde’ explores Pinochet’s character in the wake of his rule over Chile. Therefore, the primary storyline is set in contemporary times, with the events likely occurring sometime in the late 2010s or early 2020s.
Still, despite the story’s contemporary settings, ‘El Conde’s’ Director, Pablo Larraín, consciously chose to immerse the film sets in a certain level of timelessness. “We took out all screens and any modern elements. So even though we know this is a near present, by choosing certain elements and removing so much of everything else, he [production designer] was able to deliver very atmospheric sets for Ed [cinematographer] to illuminate,” shared the filmmaker in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter.
As such, the juxtaposition between the modern setting and vintage set designs, alongside the black-and-white filming, sets the film in a landscape void of time. By doing so, ‘El Conde’ achieves a certain disconnect from reality that helps it depict Augusto Pinochet within its absurdist narrative.
Where Does El Conde Take Place?
After Pinochet’s misadventures in France and Santiago, the old vampire and former tyrant retires to a life of isolation at the end of South America, somewhere in Patagonia. The region, governed by Argentina and Chile, provides a sparsely populated locale. Hence, it offers the perfect hideaway for Pinochet.
Once his reign in Chile came to an end, Pinochet was left humiliated with none of his political accomplices or friends to back him up. As a result, he fakes his own death and moves to the deserted area with his wife and butler. Pinochet has been driven to his lifeless region after the people have branded him a thief in their memory. To Pinochet, the title is such an insult that he no longer wishes to continue with his life.
After tasting incredulous power, Pinochet’s kingdom becomes a soulless land, desolate in its isolation. The long trip one has to make to trespass on Pinochet’s world further ensures the narrative maintains a distance between the real world and its satirical universe. In that regard, the barren land, full of houses and a scarcity of humans, presents a metaphorically resonant dystopian picture of a post-apocalypse. Lastly— intentional or otherwise, the wasted lands surrounding Pinochet reflect the legacy the real-life Augusto Pinochet has left behind.