Monday, 26 November 2012


Never before have I been more glad to have been unaware of the direction a plot would take. It is often the case that, when one is informed that a film contains a 'big twist', the mind searches the potential possibilities, and may eventually touch upon something close to what this 'big twist' actually is. You may guess what happens next in The Imposter (it is a documentary, so you need only look it up), but I think it is unlikely that you will. The storytelling is of such strength, though, that you are more likely to be so engrossed in this fascinating true story, related in a most cinematic manner that unveils each new development with the suspense and brio of a great thriller. The twists come thick and fast, indeed, and the very heart of this tale could even be considered one - it would be best to watch The Imposter with utterly no inkling of what will happen...I thought I had an inkling, until layer after layer was revealed, and some suspicions I had vaguely harboured, peculiar and apparently unfounded, began to take proper shape. And, beneath all of this bluster, these extraordinary events, director Bart Layton has the sense and sensitivity to transform The Imposter, to make it less a document, more of a study: a study of its main character, the imposter of the title, a man you'll think you understand, until one remarkable detail after another comes to light, and reconfigures every opinion you've made of him; a study of society, of a neglected story of the lives of the American neglected. They almost indict themselves in their naivety, and it's hard to feel sympathy for them, either at first or in the end, the opinions you've made of them may be entirely different. The imposter, amazingly, did not need to indict himself. In our eyes, his frightening, egotistical behaviour does the job anyway. A thorough, perceptive docudrama (a genre which generally makes me retch, although the staged segments here are cleverly employed, contributing to the excitement generated by the documentary segments, and only occasionally obscuring one's sense of this story as fact, rather than fiction) that is far more entertaining than the vast majority of documentaries, both for the tale it tells, and how it tells it.