Visualizing Truth in The Nasty Girl

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Michael Verhoeven’s “The Nasty Girl” is a visual hodgepodge of documentary film techniques, with film sets that rival the simplicity of a theatrical stage in order to portray one woman’s struggle to find the truth about her hometown’s past. Instead of filming a documentary on the life of Anja Rosmus, Verhoeven explores the power of fictionalized narrative on a subject immersed in the revelations of truth.
The audience is guided from beginning to end by the narrative of the fictionalized main character, a young woman named Sonya Rosenberg-Wegmus. This narrative is presented by both a physical, and voiceover technique. Verhoeven even goes so far as to allow the narrator to break the third wall through direct eye contact, an action that encourages an intimacy with the narrator and audience, as she is exposing her entire life. Verhoeven aids this narration through the use of black and white film when looking at Rosenburg-Wegmus’s past, as well as the use of false backdrops when she is dealing with elements in the story that aid or attempt to derail her search for the truth.
The use of false backdrops is a technique that was used primarily in films during the early 1900’s as a way to create a set while cutting production costs. Verhoeven employs this technique primarily in scenes where Rosenburg-Wegmus is in a library, records archive, or in the pursuit of discovering the truth. This false backdrop is used as visual effect to heighten the fact that Rosenburg-Wegmus’s search for truth was overwhelmed by the “backdrop” of lies that the community had created. Thefirst time the use of the false backdrop is introduced is during Rosenburg-Wegmus’s youth, as she embarks on herfirst essay topic “Freedom in Europe”. The backdrop is of the town’s archives, Rosenburg-Wegums is confused when she reads that Greece is considered a free democratic country. She asked the archivist to further explain this, but instead of giving her an explanation…