Film on Austrian cellar girl’s ordeal premieres


A new film that attempts to portray Austrian Natascha Kampusch’s eight-year imprisonment by a man who kidnapped her when she was just 10 years old shows the horror of a living hell.

But the reality of the mental, physical and sexual abuse was far worse than “3096 Days”, which premiered Monday, could possibly show, says Kampusch, whose ordeal came to light when she escaped in 2006.

“I recognised myself (in the film),” Kampusch, now 25, told Germany’s Bild daily this month. “But the reality was much worse. You can’t show this in a film however, it’s not supposed to be a horror movie.”

For instance, she says, there were no screams of desperation and hunger as shown in the two-hour film by Sherry Hormann (“Desert Flower”), starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Thure Lindhardt and Amelia Pidgeon.

“I never screamed down there. My body was unable to scream. It was a silent scream,” Kampusch says.

But the violence and cruelty inflicted on the girl by mummy’s boy Wolfgang Priklopil, brilliantly played by Denmark’s Lindhardt, is all too accurate.

Unemployed telecoms engineer Priklopil, 35, shoved Kampusch into a van as she was going to school in Vienna on March 2, 1998, and took her to his house in nearby Strasshof.

He shut her in an underground room measuring less than six square metres (65 square feet), telling her that the doors and windows were booby trapped and that her family had forgotten about her.

She was his captive for the next 3,096 days until she managed to escape on August 23, 2006. Priklopil killed himself later the same evening. The story shocked the world.

The film — which was shot in English but has been dubbed for German audiences — shows how Priklopil, not content with keeping Kampusch prisoner and hurting her, gave her almost nothing to eat.

No less disturbing are the scenes of sex that started as she entered puberty — scenes which constitute Kampusch’s first admission that this happened — when Priklopil would bind their hands together.

Campbell-Hughes (“Lead Balloon”), the Northern Irish actress who plays the older Kampusch, lost so much weight for the role that she looks almost skeletal.

“Playing someone real, you feel you have to give a bit more. There was an understanding from the beginning that I would suffer as much as she did,” the 30-year-old told London’s Evening Standard newspaper.


— New dimension —

Kampusch has given TV interviews over the years about her ordeal and written a book also called “3096 Days” on which the movie is mostly based.

At first, she says, she was dubious about it being turned into a film but she persuaded by German producer Bernd Eichinger (“The Name of the Rose”, “Downfall”), who began working on a script but died in January 2011.

“Lots of things changed after the book but I think that the movie brings a whole new dimension into play,” Kampusch says.

“Maybe lots of people who haven’t believed me until now, or who have trivialised the whole thing, will see things differently after seeing the film.”

She is broadly satisfied, calling the work “very authentic”.

“Of course there is always a difference between a film version and what really happened. Not least because you can’t remember any more and because it can’t be brought across,” she says.

“But at the end of the day it comes very close to what I experienced.”

“3096 Days” opens in cinemas in Austria, Germany and Switzerland on Thursday. It is set for release in several other markets but dates are still to be announced.

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