Wormwood isn’t due out until 15th December, but Netflix has been eagerly premiering it across the film festival circuit in the meantime. The six-part mini-series will receive a screening at the Venice Film Festival this afternoon. So what is it about and why should you feel the hype?
For a start, Wormwood‘s format is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s neither a straight-up drama series, nor a documentary. The series lies somewhere between the two poles. At it’s heart is the story of Frank Olson, a biochemist, at one stage, worked for the US government. In December 1953, Olson fell to his death from a New York hotel window. The death was considered a suicide. It wasn’t until twenty years later that new conflicting information was revealed which prompted Olson’s family to sue the federal government.
Olson’s employers at the time, the CIA, gave the unwitting biochemist LSD. At the time, the government was experimenting with the drug as a means of chemical warfare.
Wormwood suggests Olson was murdered by the CIA while on the drug and the organisation spent years covering it up.
The series is partially narrative recreations of this theory with Peter Sarsgaard playing Olson. The other side of the series is a series of interviews with Eric Olson, Frank’s son. Eric is investigating his father’s suicide and the series will follow his attempts to uncover the truth.
Unlike Netflix’s other well-regarded documentaries series such as The Keepers and Making A Murderer you shouldn’t expect an easy resolution here. Wormwood‘s director Errol Morris has made it clear that this series is more about the journey to the answers than the answers themselves. In fact, it’s less about the truth of Frank Olson’s death, than the impact of the quest to understand it on Eric Olson.
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Considering that Wormwood comes from Errol Morris, a man considered to be one of the finest living documentarians, it should be a real treat when it arrives in December.