IMPOSTER, THE (2012)
In 1994 Nicholas Barclay, a 13 year-old Texas boy from
San Antonio, vanishes without a trace. Three and a half years
later, staggering news arrives: the boy has been found, thousands
of miles from home in Spain, saying he survived a mind-boggling
ordeal of kidnap and torture by shadowy captors. His family is
ecstatic to have him back no matter how strange the circumstances -
but things become far stranger once he returns to Texas. (Partial
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's one hell of a yarn, and
it may never have worked as a movie if it were a fictional story.
The brief outline or story synopsis can hardly even hint at the
level of emotional and psychological complexity - struggle, even
- the filmmaker puts us through. Although re-enactment is one of
the tools director Bart Layton uses, they are subtle and minimal
- suggestive of memories, without dialogue.
The use of re-
enactments - a bit like flashbacks - enhances the visual
dramatics, but it's the confession-to-camera by Frédéric Bourdin
that provides the dramatic tension, and ultimately, the sense of
having absorbed an extraordinary example of the human experience
- from the key participants' various (and out-of-synch) versions
Yet the most admirable aspect of this documentary
is the way Layton manages to unravel each aspect, every twist,
with the patience of a brain surgeon. As we inch closer to the
answer to every 'why', a new layer of circumstance or a twist
Layton draws us further and further into the maze
of not just what it was that Frederic Bourdin undertook but how -
and what he felt about it all as he went along. It's tempting to
provide some examples but the film's delicate balancing of what
is revealed in what sequence is so fine that it would be a shame
to spoil that for intending audiences.
satisfying film and for anyone interested in filmmaking
techniques, The Imposter has many lessons; for the rest of us, it
reinforces the golden rule: never assume anything about anyone.
Review by Louise Keller:
The most fascinating
thing about this real life story is that the revelations never
stop. The title tells us what the story is about, but it is
impossible to imagine the complex elements that involve not only
the central character, a young man pretending to be someone else,
but those who accept him as the person he pretends to be.
Director Bart Layton has crafted a breathtaking documentary that
involves us in the lives of all the characters, which in turn
allows us to understand the events as they unfold. The fact that
we hear the details from the imposter Frédéric Bourdin himself -
is especially potent. The motivation, the execution and how
everything falls apart is utterly incredible: this is a tale that
needs to be seen to be believed.
In the opening, grainy
home video images, we meet Nicholas Barclay, a 13 year old blond
kid with blue eyes and a gap between his teeth, playing around
for the cameras at home. It is in 1994 that the boy disappears
from his home of San Antonio, Texas. His disappearance never made
the news; it was just news to us, says his mother, Beverley
Dollarhide. The phone call from Spain three years later is a
life-changing one - for his family and for the 23 year old man
who assumes Nicholas' identity.
Why would a 23 year old
dark haired man with a French accent want to assume the identity
of a missing boy seven years his junior? What of the story of
military sexual and physical abuse? How does this man know of
Nicholas' disappearance? How can he fool the boy's family on the
other side of the world? Or do they want to be fooled? Is it
human nature to want closure on the disappearance of a loved one?
Or is there another reason why they are quick to embrace him?
In his own words, Bourdin tells how he wanted to be someone
else; someone who was acceptable. Is he searching for the safe,
loving childhood he never had? The mystery continues as Nick's
sister Carey flies to Spain to collect the person she believes to
be her missing brother. What happens when they return to Texas?
And what of the involvement of a private detective called Charlie
Parker and the FBI? Layton skillfully uses interviews with the
key characters plus re-enactments of the events to deliver a
riveting thriller. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
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DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT - the story of a lifetime.
IMPOSTER, THE (M)
CAST: Documentary. Partial re-enactment featuring Frédéric Bourdin, Adam O'Brien, Carey Gibson, Anna Ruben, Beverley Dollarhide, Cathy Dresbach, Charlie Parker, Alan Teichman, Nancy Fisher,
PRODUCER: Dimitri Doganis
DIRECTOR: Bart Layton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Erik Alexander Wilson, Lynda Hall
EDITOR: Andrew Hulme
MUSIC: Anne Nikitin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marcia Calosio, Mariona Julbe
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 28, 2013: Melbourne: Nova; Sydney: Dendy Newtown; Brisbane: Schonell; Perth: Cinema Paradiso; Hobart: State)