The Black Pimpernel (2007)

 

 

 

Director:     sa Faringer, Ulf Hultberg.

Starring:     Michael Nyqvist (Harald Edelstam),  Lumi Cavazos (Ana Dominguez),  Kate del Castillo (Consuelo Fuentes),  Lisa Werlinder (Susanne Martens),  Carsten Norgaard (Winther),  Cristián Campos (Coronel Maldonado),  Patrick Bergin (US Ambassador),  Daniel Giménez Cacho (Ricardo Fuentes),  Luis Gnecco (Oliva - Chief of Protocoll),  Ramón Núez (Cuban Ambassador),  Rolando Garza (Carlos Cárdenas),  Gabriela Aguilera (Julia),  Amanda Borgnon (Young Ana 1941),  Trinidad González (Secretary Swedish Embassy),  Pedro Vicua (Father Soto). 

after the military coupe in Chile,  the Swedish ambassador to Chile saves more than 1,300 lives by moving them to Sweden

 

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.

After Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970, Chile became a free haven for political refugees from all over Latin America. Many insurgents from this area of the world fled military dictatorship in their countries and sought refuge in Allende’s Chile. In Washington the Nixon administration feared that Allende’s socialism would inspire social revolution elsewhere in the region. President Nixon ordered the CIA to cooperate with Chile’s biggest newspaper and with the dissatisfied members of Chile’s armed forces. The purpose was to destabilize Allende’s government. Soon only a few countries were supporting Allende. And amongst these Cuba was the closest ally.

This film is based on a true story. Some of the names, relations and events have been changed for dramatic effect or to protect the names and reputations of the persons involved.

A military man, Colonel Maldonado, says to the Swedish ambassador to Chile: "You have widely overstepped your bounds as a foreign diplomat, Edelstam. You should have known that this game of yours cannot succeed. It has to stop. I have something to show you." The fellow takes the ambassador over to a man standing against a wall. He raises his pistol and shoots the man dead.

Flashback. One week earlier in September 1973.

Mr. Harald Edelstam is introduced as the new ambassador from Sweden to Chile. The man introducing Edelstam says that he has a long and impressive history of being in the hot spots of danger: war-time Oslo; Warsaw; Jakarta when it exploded; Manila; and Guatemala. His first mission was in Berlin. More people than I can count are alive because of this man. Edelstam tells the audience that he has promised their president help with his social projects. And Sweden is going to make sure one of the goals is fulfilled: that every Chilean child will get a glass of milk in the morning.

Edelstam is introduced to Ricardo Fuentes. Fuentes is an opera fan like Edelstam. The Chilean says Chilean music, unfortunately is dominated by Chilean folk song singers these days. Edelstam dances with Ana, President Allende’s private secretary.

The next day Ana invites Edelstam to take a ride with her in her car. She refers to him by his nickname: the Black Pimpernel. She takes him to an area where they will be building new homes for the poor. A young fellow is brought in. He has been wounded. Ana tells Edelstam to "meet the revolution.".

A night they eat at a restaurant. Firing is heard outside. The electricity goes out and the restaurant owner complains that this is happening all too frequently.

At night Edelstam has memories of Nazi atrocities. In the morning he is told by Mr. Winther that at the first sign of any disobedience Edelstam will be sent back to Sweden. Edelstam does his best to ignore him. He asks the young blonde Suzanne to get a list of the people working for the Swedish Embassy.

The military breaks into a leftist office that makes school material for the shanty towns, while Edelstam is there.  They say they will be searching the area for pornographic literature and pictures. Edelstam intervenes to say all the papers are the property of the Swedish Embassy. The officer in charge backs down. Consuelo, called la comandante, is in charge.

Edelstam picks up Consuelo the next day. He drives her to a shanty town and helps her move equipment. On a break they kiss. Consuelo says she won’t just be one of his girls. They are interrupted by a woman looking for Harald. Consuelo slaps him, calls him a S.O.B. and leaves.

Allende is on the radio. He says: "These are my last words." A gun shot is heard. The sound of explosions are heard outside. The military coup is taking place. Curfew has been put in place. At the press Suzanne burns incriminating papers.

Edelstam is told that Suzanne called for him. She is at the printing press. He drives over to the printing place and finds it in shambles. He gets back in his car. Consuelo is in the back seat hiding and she tells him to drive. She says she saw Suzanne being taken away.

He drops Conseulo off at shanty town and tells her that he promises to find Suzanne. Edelstam drives to the stadium where the arrested are being taken. He goes in and runs into Ricardo Fuentes. Edelstam says he has reason to believe that Swedish citizens have been detained by the police. Fuentes says he hoes not know the names nor even the number of arrested people. Fuentes pleads for his understanding and escorts him out.

Edelstam learns that the Chileans are taking over the Cuban embassy. He drives over to the Cuban Embassy, which is under fire from the Chileans. Colonel Maldonado stops Edelstam saying that his men might have shot him. Edelstam says that would not be too smart. The man tells Edelstam that he cannot guarantee his safety, but lets Edelstam go inside the embassy. An official messenger comes over to say the Cubans must leave the country before midnight. Diplomatic contacts have ceased between the two countries.

The Cuban flag goes down, but Edelstam puts up the Swedish flag. He tells the military that this is Swedish territory now and warns them of the consequences if they violate the embassy. The military leaves.

Edelstam stays overnight in the embassy with no electricity. The last fellow to leave Allende is there with him and tells him what he saw.

When Edelstam returns to the Swedish Embassy Mr. Winther complains that the act of taking over the Cuban Embassy was not approved by the Foreign Office. Edelstam just says that there was no time for that. He says to tell the Foreign Office that they are being besieged by refugees.

Outside there are hundreds of Chileans begging to get into the embassy. One woman wants him to take her baby. He does so. The military catch the woman and kick her around and drag her by the hair.

Edelstam opens the gate to let people inside. He then has the gate closed. The military have taken some of the refugees.

Five Swedes are still unaccounted for. Edelstam goes to see if he can find them. The man who he meets with is Fuente’s friend Maldonado. He tells Harald that his courage has impressed him. The officer says they do not have the Swedes. They only have the hardened fanatics that cause problems for Chile. He assures Edelstam that there are no Swedes in his detention centers.

But Suzanne Martens has been detained in the stadium. Her name is one of the names called. She is taken into the area with the holding cells. She is brought to an interrogator. He tells her he has received the bad news that the Swedish King has died. Suzanne asks politely if the interrogator could tell the Swedish Embassy that she has been detained. On the radio, the junta asks citizens to turn in the names of foreign traitors, which doesn’t sound good for the foreigners. An anonymous man calls Edelstam to say that Suzanne has been detained at the National Stadium and that she will not be let out of there alive.

Edelstam drives out to shanty town to speak with Consuelo. He waits until dark before he finds her. He asks her to speak with her father, Ricardo Fuentes, who might be able to get Suzanne released from custody. She does not get along with her father, but goes to speak with him. She will not let him kiss her. Consuelo tries, but she is too filled with anger to persuade her father of anything. He tells her she better go. She says she will substitute herself for Suzanne. Dad won’t budge. She leaves. She gets in the car with Edelstam and cries.

Fuentes says that they have to get rid of the Swedish girl.

A man delivers a secret message to Edelstam: 54 Uruguayans will be seized tomorrow.

The military releases Suzanne to Edelstam. She tells the ambassador that there are mass executions everyday. When they return to the embassy, Edelstam tells Mr. Winther that Suzanne will now be the second secretary at the Embassy. He transfers Winther to take care of the Cuban Embassy.

Edelstam goes to get more concessions from Ricardo Fuentes. Fuentes fights him at first, but some of the prisoners are let go. He also wants to hand over six arrested Brazilians to Edelstam. Consuelo and her father look at each other for a moment without saying anything. Edelstam has Suzanne throw a Molotov cocktail at a car to distract the soldiers so the refugees can get inside the embassy.

Back to the present. The friend of Ricardo Fuentes tells Edelstam that the six Brazilians he wanted have been executed. He then shoots the man standing against the wall. The man is none other than Ricardo Fuentes. The "friend" tells Edelstam to leave and to never show his face at the stadium again. Edelstam throws up.

Back at the Embassy Edelstam starts to bark at his staff. The next day he goes to see Consuelo to tell her about her father. He tells her and she drops to her knees and cries. She tells him to go home. She says her father was an evil man. Edelman tells her he was one of the most courageous and decent persons he has ever met. Consuelo replies that she never had the courage to tell him how much she loved him. She then asks him to let her go with him wherever he goes. He is not agreeable to this. So she asks him what else does he want her to do (after having gotten her father executed). He drives away.

Edelstam sneaks two refugees into the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. His car is stopped, but he gets outs and makes his speech about this is Swedish territory. The soldiers let him through.

Edelstam gets a letter from Ana. He goes to where she is hiding. She tells him he is in danger. There is an informer at his Embassy. He returns to the Embassy and throws the man out. A number of refugees are put on a plane to be taken to Sweden. The little girl given to Edelstam is one of the refugees.

Ana calls to ask for political asylum, but Winther turns her away. Suzanne is not happy with her colleague. She runs to tell Edelstam.

Later Edelstam tell Suzanne that tonight four dignitaries from the Chilean Foreign ministry will come to his home. Edelstam entertains the dignitaries. Ana arrives and he sneaks her upstairs to a bedroom. When the party is over he comes up to see Ana. Ana talks to him about his past. He hid 56 Jewish persons under the stage floor of the State Opera. There he met an opera singer named Julia and falls in love with her. He forgets his wife and children for there is only her. Julia is married with an 8 year old daughter. But Julia is half-Jewish and her husband is exposed. To save herself and her daughter she reveals the hiding place. The little girl stared at Edelstam. She and her mother escaped with help from the Chilean Embassy. Mother died a few years later in a mental asylum in Santiago. (Yes, Ana is Julia's daughter.)  She tells Edelstam that she is not the one he seeks. The one that he needs and who needs him will be found badly wounded at the Maria church. He goes to the church. He picks Consuelo up and puts her in his car. He is followed but gets away. He delivers her to a hospital. But the military find the hospital and an officer says he will wait until after the surgery to arrest Consuelo. Edelstam goes and comes back with a document saying that Consuelo is under Swedish protection. The officer is very angry.

Ricardo’s friend Colonel Maldonado comes in and tears up Edelstam’s form. He puts a pistol to Edelstam’s head and threatens to shoot him. They take Consuelo away to prison.

Edelstam calls a press conference. He says: "Now I say to you that once and for all it’s time to drop all tactfulness. That we identify this murderous regime with their lying henchmen for what it is. A pack of criminals without humanity and dignity." He mentions the woman forcefully taken from Swedish custody against all international laws.

Consuelo’s case is front page news in many papers around the world. But now the government has declared Edelstam persona non grata. However, the government would be willing to grant concessions. Edelstam says he will cancel the next press conference if they let Conseulo out of the country.

Edelstam goes to see Consuelo. He brings her home. She and Edelstam are going to Sweden. Many of the press are there to take their pictures. The group claps for the two people.

Before Edelstam was expelled from Chile, he managed to save more than 1,300 people. Almost 3,500 persons disappeared or where murdered by the regime. 28,000 people were tortured.

As a true defender of human rights, Edelstam risked his life for people he did not know. In 1989 he died of cancer.

The Swedish Embassy and First Secretary Winther continued Edelstam’s humanitarian work, to save the life of innocent people. Today more than 48,000 Chileans live in Sweden

Pinochet was held in house arrest in Santiago. In September 2006 the Chilean High Court suspended his immunity. Legal action was taken against Pinochet.

Human rights are still under pressure. Let Edelstam be your inspiration and protect human rights in Chile and around the world. www.amneysty.org

 

Good movie of an heroic man who stood up against evil.  And the movie had a couple interesting turns of the plot.  Michael Nyqvist was great as the hero Harald Edelstam.  He had an interesting combination of determination, tact and forcefulness that saved many Chileans and others from execution at the hands of the military junta in Chile.  (And remember, the USA was behind the military junta and their executions, although pretending to be just as sweet as can be while their hands were stained with blood.)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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