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The Imposter | The Clapper Bored

The Imposter

The Imposter is a weird blend of live action and documentary filmmaking. It’s hard to find a stylistic predecessor, even with films like Touching the Void setting the standard in the genre, as the film wilfully merges and manipulates the recollections and re-enactments. It’s a striking concept- from an early moment where the film rewinds back to the beginning right through to a surreal dance ending, by way of voices that change to fit the medium in which they are being recollected- and one that is beautifully executed.

To an extent, the less you know of the story, the better. The basic set-up is this: Nicholas Barclay, the youngest son of a San Antonio family, goes missing. Three years later, the family receive a phone call from authorities in Spain who have found a young boy, fitting Nicholas’ description and claiming to be the Barclay’s son. From there the story gets weirder and weirder and is so incredible that, were it a piece of fiction, you would come out saying ‘good film but the story was too unbelievable.’ Time after time, the seemingly impossible happens and, time after time, you’ll be surprised at the events that are transpiring onscreen.

The film is, tonally, somewhat mixed. The eponymous ‘Imposter’ is a highly charismatic interview subject and he anchors the film with a slightly sinister sense of humour. The film is also morally ambiguous and the way that you perceive the events it depicts will affect whether you find it funny or sad. The cinema I saw it in was filled with laughs but there are times when the story, focused around a family still grieving for their 13 year old son, is just too sad to laugh at. Yes it’s strange, yes there’s something weird going on but, at the heart of it, are a set of people who desperately want this deceit to be true.

A sad, strange and often funny film, The Imposter is one of the best documentaries of the year and a thoroughly interesting piece of filmmaking.

Title: The Imposter
Director: Bart Layton
Starring: Frederic Bourdin, The Barclay Family, a variety of really fucking stupid bureaucrats.
Running Time: 90 odd minutes
Certificate: 15

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