"Obey me! Obey me! Obey me!"
3096 Days is based on the autobiographical book written by Natascha Kampusch, a young Austrian girl who was kidnapped when she was 10 and kept in a cell for over 8 years. The shocking event took place during the late 90's and the title of the film refers to the amount of days Natascha was held captive, so there is no spoiler here. The film was directed by Sherry Hormann (Desert Flower) and the screenplay adapted by Ruth Toma. The premise may sound interesting since this is an extraordinary story, but the truth of the matter is that the film failed to engage me. The film focuses on Natascha and how she struggled to break away from her chains, forgetting about the outside world (there are a few scenes with the mother, but we never get to see her desperation) and the police procedural to try to find her. Because of this the film focused entirely on Natascha's captivity which after a few minutes kind of felt repetitive because there wasn't much they could do with the story. We see the abuse she experiences and clearly her captor is a troubled and sick young man, but there isn't much more that the film has to say about this. Thirty minutes into the film you realize that it doesn't have anything more to offer and the story begins to drag so much you actually feel like you are held captive for years.
The film opens with a scene at a local bar in Austria where a 10 year old girl named Natascha (Amelia Pidgeon) is falling asleep while her father (Roeland Wiesnekker) is having a few drinks. The next morning Natascha's mother (Trine Dyrholm) is trying to wake her up for school, but of course she has trouble doing so due to the late night her father put her through. Her mother realizes that her father has taken her to the bar again, but Natascha defends him and is slapped for doing so. Upset, Natascha walks out of her home and heads to school, but on her way there, she is kidnapped by a young man (Thure Lindhart) who hides her in a white van and takes her to a hidden cell under his home. For the next 8 years this will be Natascha's home. The film focuses on those early days and then it jumps forward in time to her teen years (played here by Antonia Campbell-Hughes) where she is abused. She is convinced that only one of them will survive, but she never loses hope that one day she will break free.
The most positive note about this film is the impressive transformation that Antonia Campbell-Hughes went through to play Natascha. It was shocking to see her so thin and it allowed us to understand the true impact of the abuse she was receiving. It's just too bad she went through this physical transformation in such a bad film. She delivers a strong performance as well as Thure Lindhart, but the rest of the cast is forgotten. It's a shame that such a talented actress like Trine Dyrholm (In a Better World) is so underused. I believe that if the film gave us a better glimpse of the outside world and the struggle Natascha's parents were going through, it would have engaged the audience more. But since everything takes place almost entirely in captivity the film does get repetitive and dull at times. The story is devastating, but the film never made me feel that way really. Stick with the book and stay away from this movie.