Another dramatic film masterpiece from the master of the psychological thriller Roman Polanski Based on a True Story (2017) is a story about how novels are born in the writer’s imagination. Based on the book of the same name by the modern writer and screenwriter, Frenchwoman Delphine de Vigan. The plot of the screen adaptation completely repeats the literary source, with the exception of the final picture.
The meaning of the movie Based on a True Story
The main character of the film is the French novelist Delphine Dérieux, the author of a bestselling book based on real events from her life: the suicide of her mother and the emotional trauma caused by this family tragedy. The book brought her success: crowds of enthusiastic readers, recognition in the circle of the literary beau monde of Paris.
But the woman is in a serious depression: she suffers from excessive attention from fans, hates colleagues who are trying to bask in the rays of her glory, feels tired and devastated by endless interviews and evil haters. In addition, there is a midlife crisis: the children have grown up and moved away, the spouse does not pay due attention to her. Francois is a well-known TV literary talk show host: he is immersed in the implementation of his projects, he leaves for the USA for a long time. The writer is literally burned inside: she is frightened by the computer keyboard and a blank draft sheet on which she cannot write a single word.
During the next autograph session, a young spectacular person with a bright red manicure approaches the novelist. A beautiful, elegant and self-confident woman admires Denier’s talent, because she knows a lot about it – she is also a writer. When asked by the author who should sign the book, the fan answers: the initial L (El) is enough. There should be an invitation to drink a cup of coffee, colleagues get to know each other better and find a topic for further communication. Energetic and self-sufficient El is able to solve any problems. And with her ability to understand the difficult state of mind of the writer, she literally fascinates her.
Using the credulity of an insecure writer, El tries on her life: she settles in a woman’s house, copies her appearance and manners. She steals notebooks, rummages through notes, responds to Dolphin’s private emails. Gradually, a sympathetic companion turns from an assistant into a creative mentor and double. She offers to fill in for the novelist on a lecture tour that she can’t go on because she’s not feeling well. Being essentially a skilled manipulator, El begins to fully fulfill someone else’s social role.
With what, after all, did the mysterious person come to the writer: give her a second wind or steal the first, that is, life? The answer to this question is a dramatic denouement. Dolphin makes a suicide attempt – takes a handful of potent pills, washing them down with a glass of water with rat poison. The mysterious El, who won the psychological duel, disappears as suddenly as she appeared.
As the story progresses, the suspicion arises that in the story with the identity stolen from Deryo, everything is not so simple. There are no anonymous persecutors who reproach the writer for profiting from family misfortune. The features of an obsessed sociopath in the image of a bright, never parting with a cigarette girlfriend who lies as she breathes are not clearly traced. There are also some coincidences, which the French call “white pebbles”.
The mysterious girl does not communicate with anyone other than Delphine herself. Elle’s stories about the tragic death of her husband, or about working as a “ghost writer” who composes memoirs for famous personalities (for example, the story with Gerard Depardieu), are similar to the plots of books from the main character’s home library. And the first letter of the name L means the pseudonym Lou Delvig, with which the beginning Dolphin signed her first novels.
A guess arises suddenly: El is not a real character, but the fruit of an inflamed imagination Dolphin, part of the personality of the writer – her alter ego. From the endless calls of a friend-fan to her literary idol – to write a special book based not on fiction, but on her own life experience and emotional perception – it becomes clear that all this is nothing more than throwing an author who is experiencing a creative stagnation. This is how documentary fiction novels based on real events are born.
The meaning of the ending
Following the canons of the genre of psychological drama, the screenwriter and director of the film Based on a True Story intentionally changed the ending written in the book being filmed.
After recovering from an attempt to settle accounts with life, which almost ended in tragedy, Delfin Deryo comes out of a creative stupor, begins to work and creates a new work. It is autobiographical – judging by the fact that in one of the episodes it is shown how the writer outlines the title of the future novel ELLE (translated from French as “she”) in a notebook.
During the presentation of the book, which has become another bestseller, the face of a beautiful woman with satanic scarlet lipstick suddenly flashes among the public. The ending of the film remains open: will the mysterious Elle approach her literary idol Dolphin for an autograph this time?