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Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Black Pimpernel


This Åsa Faringer and Ulf Hultberg film tells an interesting story that I had no idea existed and found very compelling even when there are some moments that are quite melodramatic which look and feel totally out of place within the film and the story.

Based on the real life of Harald Edelstam a Swedish diplomat that according to what they say in the movie was sent to troubled places and after reading his real curriculum I can confirm that from 1969 to 1971 Guatemala was in turmoil and when he left Guatemala he was transferred to Chile, where he lived the coup.

The film tells a fictionalized story of this Swedish ambassador, that during WWII earned the nickname Svarta nejlikan (the Black Pimpernel) that from 1971 to 1973 was stationed in Chile and helped to save many lives (1,300 the movie tells us) until he was declared “persona non grata” and asked to leave the country.

I’m totally fascinated reading about Harald Edelstan and I have to share with you that the story behind the man seems a total mystery and depending of what you read there are different versions of what happened. For example, some say that the nickname is a reference to the French Scarlet Pimpernel while his son Erik Edelstam says that’s because the film the Red Pimpernel with Leslie Howard. Then some places say that he helped members of the Resistance in Norway escape from the Germans, while others say that helped Jews, the last version is the one shown in the movie.

I really have no clue to what could be the truth, but if after watching this movie you get interested in finding more about Edelstam like I did, I’ll help the confusion by referring you to Erik Edelstam speech, this translated from Swedish article and well, check the above link for the Fundacion Stiftelsen Harald Edelstam.

So, going back to the movie I have to admit that absolutely liked more the story of the man told in the movie than the movie as a movie because it looks and feels like a cheap fictionalization of a definitively admirable man. If only the writers removed the proverbial romance that make the character look like a womanizer, perhaps it would have been a lot better and definitively more serious. Still, the insertion of real footage from several fatidic moments in the history of Chile makes them interesting to watch.

This is a Swedish, Mexican and Danish production that I definitively recommend for the story it tells and if you decide to give it a try please do not pay much attention to the romance and melodramatic parts and you will discover a serious movie with an important message.

Enjoy! (for the story)

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