Every woman needs a best friend, especially those women who otherwise tend to get by on their own. Delphine (Emmanuelle Seigner) has great success as a writer, she keeps her boyfriend at a distance, the children are out of the house. So it is just right for her when she meets a stranger at a party who wants to take the vacant position of best friend very aggressively.
Delphine can’t remember giving Elle (Eva Green) her cell phone number. But at the end of the first encounter she was drunk, the women drank one vodka after the other. Now she’s sitting in front of the empty computer screen, she can’t think of anything for her new book. Any change is welcome, and so she lets this strange woman get very close to her very quickly. She has just found out that Elle lives in the house across the street, when she is already standing in front of the door with her suitcases and moving in with Delphine. It fills a void.
This is how Roman Polanski’s thriller “Based on a true story” begins. Everything revolves around the two women who withdraw more and more from the world outside until they are finally alone with each other. Delphine breaks her foot on the stairs. Because the way up to her apartment is too difficult afterwards, the foot should be cured in her weekend house, which is single-storey – and is lonely.
“Based on a true story” is, somehow, based on a true story
Elle is a bit too pushy, too determined, too aggressive: she pushes Delphine to work, blocks all other friends. She is an author herself, she writes down other people’s biographies. Elle is becoming more and more uncontrolled and threatening; and Delphine still can’t get away from her. Why, what does she see in her? What you see as a viewer is clear: these women act side by side, as if the younger Elle were the tidy, enthusiastic version of Delphine. The style of clothing is similar, but Delphine has obviously given up ironing; Elle only writes down self-obsessed celebrity confessions, very organized, Delphine writes novels that children read in school – but at the moment she is not writing at all. Until she got the idea to write secretly about Elle.
It’s all pretty exciting, and when Elle is sometimes put on a little, her heroine is imitating Delphine a little too obviously – then that makes sense over the course of the film. “Based on a True Story” is based, somehow, on a true story – a novel by Delphine de Vigan. Delphine writes about dolphins, that is a gag that cannot be transferred to the screen. But you can also play your game with reality and perception in a film. Polanski adapted the novel together with Olivier Assayas (“Personal Shopper”), and its influence is palpable – the confrontation with inner demons, as it takes place in the country house, is more his area of expertise than that of Polanski, who is mostly interested in external threats .
“After a true story” is not a perfect, but a successful thriller – but unlike Polanski’s “Ghostwriter”, it romps around a bit superficially with writers’ inhibitions and author’s vanity. There will be people who still don’t want to see the film – because it is from Polanski. There were already calls for boycotts last autumn. Polanski has not made the headlines since he was charged with rape of a 13-year-old in 1977. He confessed at the time, served briefly in prison, then left the USA, was arrested in Switzerland and was under house arrest there for a period, but the trial is still pending. At the beginning of May, Polanski, who had been nominated for six Oscars over the years and won best director in 2003 with the Holocaust drama “The Pianist”, was expelled from the Oscar Academy. His lawyer is now threatening to take legal action – not against the expulsion, but against the proceedings in which the Academy did not adhere to its own, recently established rules. It’s a never-ending story that 1977 victim Samantha Geimer would like to put aside; but she would, otherwise, testify before the Academy – in Polanski’s favor.
Incidentally, she defended his films fifteen years ago. The stories Polanski tells are more on the side of those who have been wronged than to defend those who harass others – in his formative experiences Polanski, who grew up in the Krakow ghetto during the Third Reich, was himself the harassed. That often plays a role in his stories – the Geimer case doesn’t. Those who no longer feel comfortable with Polanski’s films don’t have to watch them. But there is nothing wrong with them.
D’après une histoire vraie, France 2017 – Director: Roman Polanski. Screenplay: Polanski and Olivier Assayas, based on the novel by Delphine de Vigan. Camera: Pawel Edelman. With: Emmanuelle Seigner, Eva Green.Studiocanal, 110 minutes.