No wonder The Imposter was shortlisted for a best doc Oscar (but didn’t survive the final cut, unfortunately). The director Bart Layton perfectly creates a dark atmosphere of a classic American gothic tale with the help of the eerie talking heads, Anne Nikitin’s spooky soundtrack and dimly lit dramatic sequences (Adam O'Brian plays Frédéric Bourdin in those). The photos of the real Nicholas, blond, smiling, happy, create a hollow space, a perpetual void, as if he is a hovering ghost over the movie, never allowed to speak his version of events; and that empty space is never filled. This documentary is a question mark, if anything else; it questions the definition of truth, including the multiple truths it puts forward itself.
To begin with, it is disappointing that this riveting story is not coming in Blu-ray, and the DVD 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of The Imposter is not enough to compensate for that lack. The picture suffers from a lack of sharpness and definition, which could be a problem for Blu-ray purists but was OK for me because I felt the strong story and the extra features made up for the lack of technical perfection. The soundtrack both in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. worked OK.
"Making The Imposter" (41:30) is a solid documentary that discusses the connection and transition between the documentary itself to the dramatized sequences, the use of scripted scenes and storyboards. These aspects of The Imposter may start a heated discussion about the purity or objectivity of narration but the dramatization of the past events does add to the whole experience; without them it would be just another TV thriller doc. "Making The Imposter" also discusses the problem of casting the family, choosing the actors, providing an adequate score for a documentary of this kind, and giving weight to multiple viewpoints and versions of events.
The traditional original theatrical trailer for The Imposter is offered on the DVD pack but the audio commentary and deleted scenes are absent. As a bonus, however, there is a QR code that takes you to a website with a PDF file containing police and FBI files about the case of Nicholas Barclay. (This is all great stuff but it is somewhat strange that the makers of this extra feature didn’t think of the users who don’t own smartphones or barcode scanners).
Verdict: The Imposter is a disturbing look into the human soul, and especially its darkest, most hidden corners. It is a must-see documentary of 2012, and a riveting mystery that will probably never be solved.