Review: The Imposter
Living in Spain, the 23 year old man pretends to be a traumatised child in order to get shelter at a youth centre. Facing the prospect of arrest for an unspecified crime, he develops the lie further and further.
Having settled on the identity of a missing boy from America, 16 year old Nicholas Barclay, the family are contacted and they fly to Spain to collect him.
Fearing being caught out at any moment, he is shocked to find that they actually embrace him as part of the family.
The audience is left in a state of disbelief for a short while as the man recounts how the family ignored the fact that he was obviously a completely different person. Why would they do something like that? Are they desperate, or stupid, or has he stumbled into the only family that has an ulterior motive themselves?
I adore the style of the film as it is a documentary with a clear eye on narrative storytelling. We aren’t just shown a series of facts, they’re carefully metered out with precision to keep us questioning and guessing.
This careful drip feed gives us just enough information to keep hooked the entire time. There are no dead moments while facts need explaining, it’s all measured for the greatest effect.
But I never felt manipulated by it. Just that they were reading my mind. By the time one twist in the tale had sunk in a new character was introduced that tore up what I thought I knew and wrote a new script.
The filming techniques were also very carefully chosen to tiptoe the line between documentary and narrative. We have talking heads of the family members and the man himself in intimidating close up.
Re-enactments bring the words we're hearing to life. The mouth along with the interviews to turn their stories into real actions. They use actors who mirror the mannerisms and movements of the interviewees chillingly.
The resemblance is uncanny at times and the technique echoes the subject of the film itself – of pretence, identity and artifice. And the uncanny nature of the main subject - man who has committed some terrible and heartless crimes against very vulnerable people, but who can charm almost anyone with his spell.
The Imposter shows us what a blend of styles can achieve in making a story real. With a scripted narrative you lose the human touch of the original people. With a documentary you lose the drama. But when both are smashed together you get a story that’s both thrilling and grippingly real. Of course it helps if you’re telling a true tale of intrigue that will chill you and leave you hanging.
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Hi, I'm Caz. I live in Edinburgh and I watch a lot of films. My reviews focus mainly on women in film - female directors or how women are represented on screen.