‘Amanda Knox’ Explores a Scandalous Murder Through a Tabloid Lens

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Amanda Knox

The murder of Meredith Kercher in a quaint Italian village in 2007 sparked a media firestorm that still burns to this day. Amanda Knox, a young American studying abroad, was tried and convicted of the murder along with her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, though their conviction would be overturned on appeal. The players in this overly sensationalized real life drama are the subject of Amanda Knox, the new documentary from directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn. Amanda Knox is a frustrating documentary experience, a glossy piece of sharp filmmaking that never takes itself to the next level. In trying to create moments of doubt among the audience, Amanda Knox is documentary that shifts its perspective constantly that it winds up undermining its own case. This is a film that works better as a critique of tabloid media than as an exploration of an infamous murder.

This true crime tale unfolds in a series of interviews with the participants in the swirling media and judicial circus. Knox carries herself well in her interviews, portraying herself as a kindhearted American girl studying abroad, fresh in love with Raffaele Sollecito before the murder of her roommate sends her idyllic life spiraling out of control into hell. Sollecito corroborates Knox’s account of the events, with the young couple discovering signs of foul play before calling the authorities. In either of the two accounts, there’s little that would sway anyone in either direction if they entered the film with preconceived notions of Knox’s guilt or innocence.

The most damning aspects explored within Amanda Knox are the role of the tabloid media, embodied by the sleazy British journalist Nick Pisa. With glee, the yellow journalist recalls all the aspects of the case that he willfully sensationalized in order to get his byline on the front page day after day. Knox’s MySpace profile had the name “Foxy Knoxy” and Pisa used this moniker as a means to inject a layer of sexual sensationalism into the story, something he is obviously quite proud of.

Another aspect that undermines the case for Knox’s guilt are the words of the prosecutor Giuliano Mignini. Often he makes causal statements that assert Knox’s guilt because she may have been sexually promiscuous and Kercher didn’t share those proclivities. Mignini is happy to peddle in the sexual sensationalism that dominated the tabloid headlines, but he mistakes the bedroom for a court of law. The manner with which Mignini is able use his sexual moralism as evidence against Knox really does himself and his case no favors. After the initial conviction, Knox and Sollecito’s verdict was overturned due to questionable gathering and testing techniques employed with the forensic evidence, but, like the young girl he’s determined to prove a murderer, Mignini will never admit the slightest wrongdoing.

There was one individual convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher, Rudy Guede, a young black man born in the Ivory Coast but raised in Italy. Guede’s trial didn’t create the same sensational headlines as Knox for the same exact crime, and the film theorizes that it was because Knox was an attractive white girl. Oddly, the film doesn’t do much to examine Guede’s guilt or innocence in the matter, as if he’s a footnote to the entire ordeal – and pretty much proving its thesis on why Guede was barely reported.

Amanda Knox employs much of the cinematic stylings of Errol MorrisTabloid, with journalists and participants in a scandalous story explain the facts and their involvement. But Morris’ film was about an odd story that blew out of proportion, a trifle that left nobody dead. That’s why applying the same lens in Amanda Knox comes across the wrong way – a young woman was murdered, her family heartbroken, and the lives of everyone involved have been put through the ringer. Even more bewildering, Blackhurst and McGinn have a number of staged setups with the subjects. These are carefully constructed sequences that work contra to the film’s attempts at authenticity or truth. It’s obvious that these are intended to be moments that illustrate a day in the life for the film’s subjects following the fallout from the trial, but they’re so carefully staged that they have all the honesty of a reality television show.

The story of Amanda Knox and the questions that swirl around her guilt or innocence in the murder of Meredith Kercher is a fascinating tale, but Amanda Knox isn’t able to really shed much new light on the topic. True crime is all the rage these days, and Amanda Knox feels more like an opportunistic gambit than a wholly in-depth exploration. For all of its flaws, though, Amanda Knox certainly has a beautiful look to it, and it’s very well shot and edited. But this movie is lacking a truly inquisitive eye, unwilling to go beyond the surface level of sleazy tabloid journalism that defined the case then and continues to now. Amanda Knox is compelling to a point, but it never feels truly earnest.

Amanda Knox
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

A strongly constructed piece of filmmaking, Amanda Knox explores the scandalous murder of Meredith Kercher through interviews with all sorts of participants, including Knox, but the film comes across better as a critique of tabloid journalism than a compelling piece of true crime cinema.

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