Naturalism in dramatic cinema has been often within touching distance of reality in exploring found stories that most fully embrace the purest form of photographic reproduction in artistic form. Ever since documentary filmmakers turned things on their head by introducing reconstructions as a narrative alternative to talking heads, they have increasingly looked towards dramatic filmmaking conventions for more engaging ways of communicating with their audience. With the two forms more frequently operating in the same territory and sometimes merging, it raises new questions of fidelity, which come to the fore in Bart Layton’s debut film, ‘The Imposter’.
A captivating ‘edge of the seat’ thriller of a documentary, it depicts an outrageous real life case of identify theft that would be far too absurd for any fiction. A serial imposter, Frédéric Bourdin, randomly assumes the identity of a thirteen year old boy, Nicholas Barclay, who was reported missing from his San Antonio home three years earlier. Plausible you would think if the imposter was from the area or, at least, the same country and, perhaps, there were no inconvenient living relatives to identify the lie and alert the authorities. Less so, when a man in his twenties with a strong French accent, much darker skin and different coloured eyes, makes the claim from Spain and successfully plants himself into the missing boy’s extended family’s home in a remote part of Texas where the locals never cross the state line. You really couldn’t make it up, but it gets worse; Bourdin, thinking on his feet, covering off questions before they are raised – how did he leave the US without a passport? – fools the FBI and the national media into accepting an outlandish explanation involving a military orchestrated international paedophile ring, seemingly without the authorities making any serious investigations to check his story or identity. And, just to complete the truly surreal circle, it takes an old school private dick, a throwback to cliché-ridden 1970’s TV ‘sleuth and snoop’ fare, to smell a rat in the form of – wait for it – different size lugholes.
There you have it; and yet, we take this jaw-dropping story very seriously, lapping up every twist and turn along the way and, when, the focal point shifts from imposter to the missing boy’s family, the mocumentary sounding synopsis is firmly grounded in an altogether darker reality.
An ongoing commentary from Bourdin unsurprisingly confirms him as the ultimate unreliable narrator; planting unverified snippets into our minds that take on more sinister meanings when he subsequently points a finger of guilt at the family over Nicholas’ disappearance. Providing a unique insight into a truly warped sense of reality, we gain a feel for his character, a measuring stick upon which to judge his claims and version of events.
Nicholas’ sister, the main spokesperson for the family, reacts with expected indignation to Bourdin’s allegations but there are undeniably troubling circumstances that go beyond the family’s remarkable failure to believe the evidence of their own eyes. A dysfunctional family with a history of drug abuse and ferocious arguments, often involving Nicholas, it does not require Bourdin to raise serious concerns.
Layton knits it together superbly with a Hitchcockian craft for storytelling but it begs the question whether such editorial control of our emotions inevitably compromises the film as a documentary? Maybe, in the purest ethical sense, but it still makes for fantastic entertainment and leaves us with a sneaky feeling that this approximation of reality in the Errol Morris sense is a close as we are going to get to the truth.
It has something in common with Carol Morley’s outstanding ‘Dreams Of A Life’ and, in a similar way, nagging questions prod us afterwards; the irresistible attraction of the unresolvable as we contemplate whether we have witnessed a family whose desperation mutates into an extreme and terribly sad case of absolute self-delusion and wish fulfilment or one exploiting a ready made ‘gift wrapped’ opportunity to conceal a shocking secret of their own.buy motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada