“She Said” is a novelistic film

“She Said” is a novelistic film

Review: Women’s voices and the facts power no-nonsense journalistic drama ‘She Said’ (9/22)

‘She Said’ isn’t a documentary, at least not entirely. It’s partly a fictionalization, but a novelistic one, inasmuch as it presents a view of journalism that’s at once more liberal and more traditional. Where most journalism is a game of compromise, of working toward the appearance of balance, “She Said” is almost entirely a contest of ideas, which means it’s also an exercise in argument and debate.

The film takes place in mid-October, 1972. It’s the kind of time of year when women feel more free to speak up about their experiences. (You get them to sign a consent form, you have someone else write out the actual letter, you add a signature and then you file it away in a safe place.) In this particular year, women are speaking out everywhere—against violence against women, against racism, against the Vietnam War.

When one woman comes forward to tell her story, it’s front-page news—in fact, it’s the lead story of the day. But that woman is also the sole source of the film’s information: she is the “She Said” narrator, and she’s telling the tale of a little girl named Alyssa who, for reasons we don’t understand, decided to tell the world about a sex crime for which she’s been convicted.

When the girl speaks, she speaks to us directly, as a woman, with the forcefulness of a woman who sees herself as both victim and aggressor. When the mother of Alyssa, Catherine (Marlene Dietrich), speaks, she says it with the same intensity: “I don’t want to live.”

When Alyssa, playing

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