Sundance 2021 – Misha and the Wolves

Now this is a tale that just gets stranger the more you dig into it. In the 1990s, Misha Defonseca wrote a highly successful memoir of her survival of the Holocaust, where she fled her home in search of her parents and lived in the wilderness and bonded with a pack of wolves. But after a nasty fallout with her publisher, Misha’s tale begins to fall apart and it’s proven her story was a lie. Director Sam Hobkinson gives us this wild tale thrillingly, pacing it like a thriller. While he doesn’t offer clarity where it’s beneficial to in certain aspects, Misha and the Wolves is still a compelling tale told grippingly.

Reminiscent of Bart Layton, Hobkinson cuts in dramatic reenactments and keeps a tight close-up on our characters in interviews. The lighting is always dark and dramatic, keeping up the thrill of this tale. I don’t want to give it away, but there is a neat and deceptive trick that Hobkinson pulls on us whose reveal speaks to the film’s examinations of trusting whoever is telling you their story. I don’t know that he necessarily nails it in the way he thinks he does, but it’s an ambitious deceit nonetheless that I have to admire.

It does seem in parts like you’d be better equipped for viewing this if you already had previous knowledge of Misha’s story. Otherwise you’ll be a bit fuzzy on certain details and will have to look up certain things afterwards. What exactly happened in Misha’s book? We are only presented with a few cliff notes. There are bits of information that seem key to putting this all together that are just glossed over, and when it comes time to deliver a thesis at the end on his examination of the stories we tell ourselves, of who gets to say who is the villain, Hobkinson just kind of seems to shrug and go “I don’t know man, this story is crazy though, right?” Hobkinson doesn’t really offer up much of a resolution as to why Misha lied about all this, but he doesn’t necessarily have to here. It’s a compelling film regardless of that missing sense of clarity. He tells the story excitedly, and he tells it well.

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