AMANDA KNOX (2016)
Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn
“If I am guilty, I am the ultimate figure to fear. If I am innocent, it means everyone is vulnerable, and that’s everyone’s nightmare. Either I am a psychopath in sheep’s clothing or I am you” says the subject. As openers go it’s a bold one, appropriately stooping to sensationalism whilst simultaneously emphasising the unknowableness of the case at hand. Following their ground-breaking series Making A Murderer, which looked little known prisoner Steven Avery, Netflix latest documentary focuses on maybe the most famous arrestee of the last two decades: Amanda Knox. Across eight years, spanning most of her 20s, this young American went from infamous household name to cautionary tale.
As a reminder of what spawned her legal epic, the 20 year old Knox and a then new lover Raffaele Sollecito, were arrested for the murder of flatmate Meredith Kercher. This happened in the sleepy, picturesque Italian town of Perugia (beautifully captured here in numerous panoramics). Their supposedly “sexy” killing took the red tops by storm, culminating in millions of people the world over watching as they both get sentenced to jail for the next quarter of a century. As this trial by media went on another suspect named Rudy Guede was convicted in a separate inquiry, where at the stand he specified Knox wasn’t home. However, against a backdrop of mud-slinging and hysteria this did little to help her. Both suspects Knox and Sollecito were sent to prison. Fast forward 4 years and it turned out the DNA evidence, which supplied the main rationale for the prosecution, was less than conclusive. A third trial followed last year, when they were finally cleared of any wrongdoing. Across an hour and a half it all plays out chronologically, in a movie that delves deep into the ordeal.
What separates this from the many exploitative ones you may have seen since 2007 is the access makers Blackhurst and McGinn have. All the main players are there including Sollecito and Knox, who does her first film to date. With them are the absurd, wannabe Poirot, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and the slazey, yet still oddly smug, Daily Mail hack Nick Pisa (who popularised the massively inappropriate nickname “Foxy Knoxy”). This quartet cover the investigation from a variety of angles, exploring many milestones in the saga. Though the sum of their parts comprise a fairly convincing case for her innocence, the feature is less concerned with that than how she was treated. As per Making A Murderer it gives a frightening insight into the legal system, with a combo of sexism, scandal and public pressure making Knox the ideal criminal. Throughout we learn about blatant police incompetence, confirmation bias in court and the humiliation of Knox’s diary getting leaked to press and her being lied to about having HIV. As such, whether one thinks her and Sollecito did it or not (and many armchair forensic psychologists assume she did) it is almost beside the point given the trial she received.
Frustratingly several questions linger, with little to explain the frankly bizarre behaviour of the accused duo after the body was found. These holes in the story are raised and then swiftly dropped, like a hit and run form of ambiguity. Along with explanations for these inconsistencies and oddities, if there’s something else missing from an otherwise exhaustive chronicle it’s who Knox really is. With so many trashy column inches dedicated to analysing each and every facet of her life it’s a shame that we get so little of her internal life. Yet by focussing on the miscarriage of justice over the alleged murder, it drags the topic out the gutter we’d usually find it. As such it makes for a much more sober account than usual, challenging the typical narrative of Amanda as a celebrity. And whilst this makes for an all-together less alluring piece its maybe the one she deserves. It’s hard not to be moved when she says it’s over – let’s hope it really is.
Amanda Knox is exclusive to Netflix