The Imposter

DIRECTED BY: Bart Layton
STARRING: Frederic Bourdin, Carey Gibson, Nancy Fisher, Beverly Dollarhide
RATING: 4 stars

There are some documentaries that stick with you for a long time. The Imposter is the perfect example of just that. Throughout the entire film I found myself repeatedly asking: "How could this have happened?" It gets under your skin. You feel pity, anger, frustration, confusion, sadness and relief. It is the kind of story that would seem like a far-fetched plot in a work of fiction, but it is all true.

The Imposter is told through interviews and partial re-enactments. In 1994, Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old boy from San Antonio in the USA disappeared. Three and a half years later, he is apparently found in Spain, saying he has survived being kidnapped and tortured. His family is amazed and relieved that he is alive. But things are not as they seem, which becomes increasingly more obvious when he returns to Texas, because he is not Nicholas. The boy is actually 23-year-old Frenchman Frederic Bourdin.

The film is both emotional and psychologically fascinating. Home videos and re-enactments are used almost like flashbacks and they are very effective. But the real fascination comes from watching Bourdin as he explains in his close-up shots how he managed to pull off such an extraordinary stunt and how he felt about his actions.

The only problem with the film is that it is too long. Director Bart Layton has tried to build suspense by revealing the details in small increments. But he need not have bothered with that technique. The story is gripping enough without adding that additional tension. The Imposter proves that the truth is often stranger than fiction.