The Imposter * * * *
Director: Bart Layton.
Featuring: Frédéric Bourdin, Adam O’Brian, Carey Gibson, Anna Ruben, Beverly Dollarhide, Cathy Dresbach, Charlie Parker, Alan Teichman, Nancy Fisher,
Over the last couple of years, there have been a number of sophisticated documentaries which have been structured in such a dramatic way, as to become an exciting new style of filmmaking altogether. Maybe it’s just that I’ve reached an age where I have the patience and can fully appreciate how a documentary plays out but I don’t remember them ever being as gripping as they are now. Either way, this is another one that can be included alongside the recent, impressive likes of “Exit Through The Gift Shop” and “Catfish“.
The true story of Frédéric Bourdin, a lonely but confident con-man who ends up in a Spanish orphanage, claiming he is Nicholas Barclay – a 16 year old Texan boy who went missing three years ago. The Barclay’s are contacted and Frédéric is flown over to meet with his estranged family. The fact that Frédéric has darker eyes, an accent and many other physical differences from the missing Nicholas doesn’t seem to bother the Barclay family; they are happy to welcome him back even though things just don’t add up.
This story unfolds while playing with the conventions of your average documentary. It’s has the obligatory interviews with the real life people involved but also intercuts with reconstructed dramatisations of the events and shapes the story with a film-like narrative. Anyone familiar with TV shows like “Crimewatch” will know what I mean when I compare it to such a style. That being said, it’s a highly effective approach and keeps you thoroughly involved. The biggest involvement comes from the actual events themselves, though. How these events even managed to take place is hard to believe. So much so, that it had me wondering whether this documentary was manipulated, much like the aforementioned “Exit Through The Gift Shop” and “Catfish“. That being said, it slowly reveals it’s darker layers and becomes a classic case of the truth being, most definitely, stranger than fiction. At one point, there is a revelation – which I won’t explore here – where you realise that the very thing you thought to be a hoax is surpassed by an even bigger web of deceit and it’s an absolute punch in the gut. The only issue I had with the film overall, was a lack of probing or further investigation into the startling revelations but this with this, I’m just looking for fault.
An absolutely gripping and frightening docu-drama that manages to create a real sense of unease. What’s more frightening is the unusual behaviour of the so-called ‘innocents’ involved, though.
An impressive piece of work.