I absolutely loved this brilliantly acted film, which is more or less what you’d call a two-hander, with just a duo of main characters. In 1998, the adorable, chubby little Austrian schoolgirl, Natascha Maria Kampusch, is walking to school by herself after an unfortunate argument with her mother (unfortunate because it’s the last thing they’ll remember of each other for several years) when she is abducted by an unemployed telecommunications technician called Wolfgang Priklopil.

He brings her back to the home where he lives alone and keeps her captive in his house for eight years (or 3,069 days), after which time she escapes. He’s a genius with houses, and has converted a sort of nuclear bunker created by his father and grandfather into a permanent room for his captive. Over the years, he’ll add more comforts and conveniences to the room, but initially there’s just a thin foam mattress, a toilet and a sink in the room which becomes all life to Natascha.

It’s heart-breaking to see Wolfgang, a quiet loner who seems to be visited by only his mum and grandmother, shouting at and bullying the ten-year-old girl in the beginning. But wee Natascha has a stout heart and a lot of courage for a little girl. Remember Punjab from the musical ANNIE? ‘A child without courage is like a night without stars.’ Good on ya, Punjab old chap.

Little Natascha tries very hard, even in the beginning, not to let Wolfgang break her spirit. When she’s older, she even yells back at him sometimes. But her captor is a total control freak. He frequently batters the living daylights out of her for failing to follow his rules to the letter.

He subjects her to sexual violence, though we’re not sure of Natascha’s age when this starts, whether it’s straightaway or not until she’s older. On her escape from captivity, she steadfastly refused to discuss the ‘personal’ side of their relationship.

He often starves her as well, to keep her physically weak and unable to run away. It’s so distressing to see her bony, concentration-camp-thin body naked in the shower, or clad only in his horrible, ill-fitting Y-fronts and vests.

In her entire period of captivity, she only puts on a pitiful seven pounds in weight. Seven pounds in eight years! She has to deal with getting her periods while in Priklopil’s dubious care (she’s so malnourished it’s a wonder she gets them at all), and ‘learning’ the facts of life from him as well.

In the later years of Natascha’s captivity, Priklopil lets her up into the main house a fair bit, mostly to do housework and cook for him, but also to have sex with him in his bed. Sex while attached to him with a cable tied round both their wrists. Talk about possessive. He uses her as unpaid labour for the various construction jobs he wants done around the house.

She can tile and probably grout a bathroom by the time she’s free of him, so she can go into business as a handywoman if she wants to, but as it isn’t her own choice to become a feckin’ apprentice builder, I’d say she never wants to see a fuppin’ bathroom tile again in her life…!

As well as the physical and sexual violence, we also see him forcing her to eat her food off the floor and shaving her head so that she feels ugly and maybe unable to run away. That was the main reason the nuns in the horrible Magdalen Laundries here in Ireland shaved the poor, so-called penitents’ heads. Penitents? The only ones who had anything to apologise for were the nuns…

A couple of random facts about what happens after the film ends. A copper gets in trouble for saying that Natascha had a better life in captivity than with her parents, and, as recently at 2017, Natascha Kampusch owns the house in which she was a prisoner for eight years.

Interesting, isn’t it? Some people, of course, will say that she has Stockholm Syndrome and has come to identify with her captor. I personally would lay odds that she feels terrible guilt for what ultimately happens to the weasly little Prik(lopil). The poor girl. There’s probably nothing she can even do about it.

Even though the exact ending is a matter of public knowledge, I won’t ruin it for you in case you’re not familiar with the case. It’s an incredibly sad story, though it probably gives hope to everyone out there whose child has been abducted, but unfortunately not all of these tragic cases end with the captive returning home. The two actors here play an absolute blinder anyway, and though the film is grim and bleak to the max, it’s well worth a watch. Mind yourselves, now, and your kids.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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