Review Written By: Michael Dalton
The Imposter has an incredibly fascinating story that to say more about would completely ruin the experience. Rest assured, the tale The Imposter tells is one that you most likely have not heard and which will keep you engaged from beginning to end. It is a story that while very much about one thing, has themes that touch broad topics such as the nature of performance, the desire for the truth, human connection and perception versus reality. It is an incredibly gripping and dense film on a ‘narrative’ level. A piece of documentation that you will be thinking about for days, will leave you intentionally with many questions and which may never leave you. This would make a great double feature with Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and may completely change the way you view missing child cases from now on.
Director Bart Layton also ensures that this is one of the most visually exciting documentaries for a very long time. While like many documentaries this relies on talking heads and re-enactments, Layton finds a way of marrying the two and even including footage from other films and television shows in order to concoct a visual approach that I haven’t seen before in a documentary. It is an integration of pure fact with factual fiction, a unique visual approach that reflects the story at hand. However it also has the effect of increasing your desire to see a purely ‘fake’ and narrative version of this story, as with the right director and actors, it could be one hell of a film.
There are moments when the film drags and that you wish Layton had taken a more inquisitive, demanding approach with his subjects. The film leaves questions that even if it had attempted to answer couldn’t have satisfyingly or conclusively done so and Layton gives his subjects and the audience a great deal of trust and respect with his approach. At times when he could have pointed fingers, his more passive approach to the material is noteworthy and perhaps representative of what a pure documentary filmmaker should do. There is no agenda here and this film does what few documentaries realize they should do and what few fiction films actually do, tell a story and do so in an interesting and responsible manner.
Overall The Imposter is the finest documentary of 2012. It is a film with an approach that while may not answer all the questions an audience member may demand, is an appropriate approach and perhaps the attitude that best personifies the genre this film is within. It is more successful visually than most live-action film and quashes any beliefs that documentaries cannot be visually inventive or tell unpredictable stories in an exciting manner. While it may leave you desiring a more strictly narrative adaptation that is of benefit to the fascination in the story this documentary has created. It may also at times, in its sprawling, documentation approach, lose sight and focus of what the truly engaging stories within this story are, something a strictly ‘fictional’ film could focus on. However considering the nature of what it is, The Imposter is one of the more successful films of the year. It is unique, different and emotional.
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