The Imposter

The Imposter

Editing in films is often overlooked. That’s probably because the best editing feels seamless, or invisible. Editing is a magical process that can cause an emotion or reaction (editing = being scared in a horror film), but to understand the effect you have to retrace your steps and break down each frame to understand how that effect is achieved. The best analogy I can think of is that good editing is a magic trick.

The Imposter is a documentary that cuts between the standard “talking heads” interviews and dramatic re-enactments that rival the best Hollywood thrillers. It’s a hypnotic story with multiple twists along the way, and it all starts with the disappearance of a young American boy and his sudden reappearance three years later. His family gets the news from authorities that he has been found – in Spain. There’s something “off” about him though – he speaks with an accent, seems older than he should be, and his eyes are a different colour. But no one in the family seems to notice, at first. The son tells a story about how he was abducted by a paramilitary group that tortured and experimented on him in Europe – changing his eye colour and viciously assaulting him if he spoke English. That seems to settle matters for the family, but and FBI investigator and a private detective have their doubts that this is truly the family’s son.

The title seems to give the story away, but that’s really only scraping the surface of the story. What’s more interesting is re-tracing the steps to figure out how it happened, and then the chilling implication why it may have been so successful.

The editing of this film stands out because it is done so well. The film starts with a phone call that is revisited three times. Each time, we learn something new. The talking head interviews and the dramatic re-enactments eventually blur together in some scenes, with the words literally plucked from subject’s mouths and acted onscreen. It’s also a documentary that builds up to a climax, with each strand of the story culminating in a single tense scene. It’s just a couple of guys in a backyard, but you’ll understand how important that scene is for unraveling the mystery.

One of the best documentaries I’ve seen. It’s on Netflix, watch it.

Grade: A



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