The Imposter : Your Analysis

Next Monday you will submit a 750 word essay on The Imposter. Your question will be a choice from the following:


‘When watching documentaries, we are just as involved in narrative and character as we are when watching fiction films.’ Discuss how far this is true in relation to your own studies of  documentary spectatorship.


‘For the spectator, the viewing of documentary films is really no different from that of viewing fiction films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this view?

For your essays it is crucial that you have MICRO evidence from specific moments in the films.

In pairs or 3s you will be analysing one of the following sequences from The Imposter:

  1. Missing Boy: 00:00:16 – 00:05:30
  2. No Other Way: 00:27:20 – 00:30:54
  3. Going to School: 01:02:00 – 01:08:00
  4. They Killed Him: 01:08:00 – 01:14:30
  5. Frederic Bourdin: 01:17:00 – 01:22:08
  6. Digging: 01:27:24 – 01:31:45

Remember in your analysis you need to consider micro features & specific terms:

  • mise-en-scene
  • cinematography
  • sound
  • performance
  • editing

Use this template to help you make notes on the micro and macro impact of the scene. 

Remember also to reflect on Bourdin as the central focus of the film’s narrative and the spectator’s relationship with him. His role as protagonist or antagonist and how we as a spectator respond differently to him at different moments within the film. Remember Layton’s overarching intention in this film:

“He invites sympathy. He has this childlike quality about him, and he can be very charming. And at other times he can be quite repellent, because he can be remorseless and you’re reminded about what he did. So as a filmmaker, I was asking, How can I find a way of getting the audience to experience a bit of that?”

These are the questions we considered before watching the film in class. How can you develop your answers and include them in essay format? You could use some of these questions as part of your plan for your mini essay. (In 750 words you won’t be able to answer them all!)

  • What documentary conventions is Layton using to tell this story?
  • What genre does Layton borrow conventions from in order to tell this story?
  • What is Layton’s agenda?
  • What is The Imposter a documentary about?
    • Is it about a missing child and a ‘whodunnit’ style mystery?
    • Is it a character study of a con artist?
  • How does Layton guide us to respond to Bourdain?

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