The tragedy of Chilean president Salvador Allende and the military coup that ended his utopian government has been retold from many perspectives; in “The Conspiracy,” it receives unusually personal treatment from documaker Emilio Pacull, whose stepfather Augusto Olivares, Allende’s closest collaborator, committed suicide just minutes before the besieged president. The French title “Fragile Heroes” better conveys the film’s thoughtfully melancholy, gently probing tone, which skirts autobiography when Pacull, now residing in France, describes his own feelings about Chile. The familiar story will probably follow the usual path of fest-to-ancillary outside the producing countries.
Thrust of the film is on lost utopia and the way the Chilean dream of democracy was destroyed by Pinochet’s coup, prepared with the help of the CIA as declassified documents attest and excerpts from Costa-Gavras’ “Missing” with Jack Lemmon vividly recall. Pacull argues that the success of a socialist experiment in Chile would have challenged the American doctrine that only capitalism is conducive to democracy; ergo, Nixon and Kissinger’s conspiracy against Allende.
Pacull was a child living in France when his stepfather died during the military attack on the presidential palace, and his re-creation of that traumatic event through eyewitnesses and archival photos is no more intimate than other films on the subject. Still, his connection to Olivares, who resembled Allende physically and shared his vision, adds something.
Film is enlivened with period photos, songs, music and film clips. Camerawork, credited to Pascal Radao and Ralf A. Oberti, is highly aestheticized, making use of slow-motion lensing and startling imagery. Too loosely structured to make a big point, the film closes without choosing between several regretful endings. One disappointment at its Rome Fest screening was a formal-sounding British voiceover that inexplicably replaced Pacull’s first-person narration.