Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of Lifetime’s Amanda Knox Story By Michael Wiesner

Review of Lifetime’s Amanda Knox Story
By Michael Wiesner

When Lifetime says The Amanda Knox Story is “based” on a true story, and “fact-driven” , they are using code to indicate the enormous amount of liberties taken with what actually happened. This should be obvious to any intelligent viewer who watches the combination of fact and fiction with a critical eye. After all, there are numerous scenes showing Amanda (Hayden) and/or Raffaele alone (unless Dornhelm was a fly on the wall). The big question is: How many Lifetime viewers will think hard about what they are viewing, and care about finding out the truth? A bigger a question: Is Dornhelm trying to make Amanda look guilty?

The movie is filled with factual errors, and takes great liberty with who says what. Amanda took the room in the cottage before Meredith, but traveled, so Meredith only moved in first. No biggie. Amanda’s mom, Edda Mellas, was at an airport in Switzerland, not in Perugia, when she got the call from stepdad Chris that Amanda was arrested. Rudy Guede was arrested on a train, not off the street: Also not serious. However, a friend in the coffee shop where Amanda worked called her Foxy Knoxy like it was a nickname: This is a lie! It gets worse!

The cottage used in the film, including the size of the room the murder took place in, was 50% bigger than the actual cottage: This is big – there was not space for 4 people in Meredith’s room, making the group murder theory very unlikely. Raffaele is shown secretively calling police after the Communication Police arrive: Major error – he called before, just like he told them! The movie implies he lied. There never was any incident of Amanda and Meredith greeting Rudy Guede on the steps in Perugia, or going to a party with him and smoking dope: This is a serious falsehood ! They barely knew him.

So the question becomes: How damaging will the liberties the film takes be to Amanda’s credibility? Will it get viewers to look closer at how weak the case is, or convince them there was a sound basis to put Amanda on trial? This is the big unknown!

The brutal interrogation scene, in which the accusation of Patrick was both dragged and coaxed out of Amanda is very accurate (except she wasn’t given water like Hayden was). The mob of police haranguing Amanda fully allows for the possibility she was hit on the back of the head. However, the film makes a serious omission: They fail to show Amanda writing out a statement in which she clearly says she may have imagined what she told the police. Later, when Mignini bellows out that Amanda allowed an innocent man to languish in prison by not retracting the statement (somewhat ironic – if not hypocritical), the film fails to make clear that Amanda had immediately retracted the statement as best she could while locked in solitary confinement.

Much more serious is how the film deals with accusations that Amanda’s behavior lacked empathy, and bordered on the bizarre. While even the family & friends allow that Amanda is unique, which is a good thing, suggesting her behavior indicated guilt is extreme. Here the film is hard to follow for anyone not already familiar with the details.

There are two scenes depicting Amanda (Hayden) in the police station on the first day. The first is the actual visit, the second comes from Filomena’s memory. In the actual (movie) visit, Amanda sitting on Raffaele’s lap and kissing him (as claimed by a number of real witnesses) is innocuous. She is stressed, and while the behavior is inappropriate, it does not come across as callous. However, when recounted by Filomena at the trial, Amanda is depicted as giggling and acting carefree. Will viewers remember the first scene, or believe the one from Filomena’s memory? This is followed by the most egregious misrepresentation of the film, Amanda’s remark on Meredith’s suffering, which I will address later.

The most notorious accusation, that Amanda did cartwheels in the police station, is factually inaccurate, but contextually correct. Amanda, relaxed and bored, having spent over 40 hours at the Questura from Nov.2nd through the fateful evening of Nov 5th, was studying while Raffaele was being interrogated. Believing she was there to help police (having refused to fly home despite the pleas of her mom), Amanda did some yoga exercises to stretch. A young policeman remarks on her limberness, and she does some cartwheels. The movie correctly shows the cartwheels were done out of boredom – totally natural and not in any way inappropriate. This is not the depiction of a guilty person.

However, the expressions Dornhelm gratuitously puts on Amanda’s (Hayden’s) face (that no one could have observed) may make viewers seriously question the real Amanda’s innocence. One is while Meredith is making a mojito – a scary and ambiguous glare that quickly turns into a smile. Was Dornhelm in the bar? This same ominous look comes on her face in a very touching scene. A shocked Amanda (Hayden) is told by Edda she must remain in prison for over a year while police investigate whether to try her or not. One moment she is sobbing, but then the scary look comes on Amanda’s face when she hugs her mother. Dornhelm seems to be purposely telling the audience Amanda is faking emotions, and has something to hide. This is reinforced when Amanda, alone in her cell, watches on TV as Rudy is indicted. The expression Dornhelm puts on Hayden’s face is the same, like she is deeply worried about a dark secret. This is all pure fiction – from the mind of Dornhelm. Will it influence viewers to think the real Amanda is guilty?

Now we come to more damaging fictions. Amanda and Raffaele are seen accidentally stumbling on Meredith’s memorial. That they did not attend is established fact. Worse, they then run away, laughing and giggling. This is an intolerable liberty taken by Dornhelm that borders on slander. How will viewers know this is total fiction?

Much more serious is a scene (based on fact) of Amanda (Hayden) taken to the cottage by police, where she becomes hysterical. In the real version the roommates, Filomena and Laura (not depicted in film – budget reasons?), were also there. However, Dornhelm has Hayden get hysterical when Mignini (who wasn’t there) mentions missing kitchen knives. This is pure fiction! The controversial kitchen knife was arbitrarily picked out of a draw in Raffaele’s apartment a week later – it had no part of the Nov.3rd cottage visit, whatsoever. Showing Amanda (Hayden) get hysterical over the mention of a kitchen knife, rather than just the stress of returning to the cottage is a damning lie. On one hand Amanda is accused of lacking empathy. In one of numerous instances (she also started sobbing in Paola Grande’s car taking her to the Questura right after the body was discovered – which is never depicted in film) when Amanda does show her real, deeply felt horror at her friends murder, Dornhelm turns it into a false accusation: Fear over discovery of the knife: A complete and total lie! This is outright slander, and loses the film any claim to being balanced and fair.

This brings us to a far more misleading and damning lie: Amanda’s alleged remark at the police station when one of Meredith’s friends (not Filomena) says she hopes Meredith didn’t suffer. According to witnesses, Amanda said “What do you f---ing think, she bled to death.” In the movie, Filomena recalls her saying (in a memory flashback): “What do you think – her throat was cut”! The goes on to show how Mignini charges that Amanda could not have known that detail on the first day, proving she participated in the crime. This is what viewers are left with. What are the uninformed ones going to think?

Informed ones know that the details of Meredith’s grisly death were known, and discussed. Paola Grande, who is in the film as the friend who arrives with Filomena at the cottage when the body was found, testified she told Amanda on the way to the Questura. The issue of this remark was never used in the trial because it meant nothing. However, Dornhelm allows viewers to believe Amanda had knowledge of the crime she couldn’t have unless she did it. A damning lie making her appear guilty. This removes any possibility that the film is fact-driven or fair. Dornhelm is purposely attempting to make Amanda look guilty.

There are many, many more inaccuracies and falsehoods. However, I believe the above proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Dornhelm meant to mislead viewers about the one thing that abounds in the Amanda Knox case – REASONABLE DOUBT !