Sherry Hormann delicately handles the harrowing true story of Natascha Kampusch – the Austrian schoolgirl who was abducted when she was ten and held captive for eight years by Wolfgang Priklopil. The film “3096 Tage” [Eng. Title: 3096 Days] is partly inspired by Ms. Kampusch’s book of the same name, in reference to the number of days she was held in the cellar of a suburban home by an unemployed mother-obsessed loner.
Many of us would have followed the story as it unfolded a few years ago following Ms. Kampusch’s escape. While some of her statements, suggesting that she’d forgiven Priklopil for his crime, will raise a few eyebrows, they nevertheless provide food for thought and encourage us to look for answers that may not necessarily be the most natural, or convenient even. The director clearly understands this issue, and has tread a thin line in balancing Natascha’s abnormal state of mind and the way she viewed Priklopil at the time, with how a normal individual would recognise him – for the monster that he is. I won’t be going into details of the story as it has been widely reported already. But for those interested, here’s some press-cuttings taken from Ms. Kampusch’s own website:
The film resolutely stays clear of sensationalising these events because the story itself is true, and no further embellishment, apart from a tone of authenticity, is required to depict the terrible story. Both the lead actors – British actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes who plays Natascha Kampusch, and Danish actor Thure Lindhardt who plays Wolfgang Priklopil lend that authenticity to their respective roles. More so Ms. Campbell-Hughes, who shed a lot of weight in order to prepare herself both physically and mentally for the part, and her transformation from a healthy thirty year old woman to an emaciated fourteen year old is nothing short of spectacular, disturbingly so.
However, some of the more devastating moments in the film happen around the younger Natascha, played by Amelia Pidgeon. Particularly touching is the scene where the lonely girl plays in the dark cellar with imaginary characters she’d created using a cardigan and the dress she wore when she was abducted. It is Natascha seeking a semblance of normalcy even during dire straits, that elevates the film to the level of a tribute to the human spirit. The set design had painstakingly recreated the house where Natascha was originally held (one that she currently owns), and the cinematography aptly conveys the claustrophobic atmosphere of her captivity. IMDB, as usual, has woefully underrated the film, but me thinks it is Highly Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Antonia Campbell-Hughes
Priklopil starved Natascha and kept her naked most of the time, which renders nudity a necessity in the film. But, far from objectifying Ms. Campbell-Hughes, the nakedness is painful to watch, as it only succeeds in highlighting her character’s utter vulnerability.