The Unbelievable Truth

Director: Hal Hartley
Screenwriters: Hal Hartley

Institute History

  • 1990 Sundance Film Festival


There is an immediate sense of posturing apparent in The Unbelievable Truth that is quickly demolished by the inventive style of first-time director Hal Hartley. The paradox suggested in its title ruptures this middle-class melodrama by injecting a healthy dose of absurdity and giving us a darkly humorous glimpse of contemporary capitalistic suburban life.

Smart and genuine, The Unbelievable Truth introduces us to the beautifully young, nihilistic Audry, the handsomely dry Josh, a hotheaded father, and a self-consumed, overly possessive boyfriend. Josh’s stint in prison provides mystery, while it is Audry's crush on Josh that drives the melodrama. But Hartley's unabashed self-consciousness eclipses both, marking this as a smart and engaging work. Deliberately flat acting, Godardian interruptions and deadpan humor give the work a perverse, offbeat sensibility that punctuates the director's intentions.

Shot on Long Island, the film contains nothing superfluous; the running stylistic commentary is never off-putting nor pretentious. The dialogue is flippant. but perfectly delivered by each cast member for maximum effect. Adrienne Shelly and Robert Burke give excellent performances as the slightly distracted Audry and Josh, a seemingly mismatched couple. The production design and camera are exacting, and an incredibly evocative musical score by Jim Coleman retains the sense of mystery that launches the film, even after satire begins to overtake melodrama. The Unbelievable Truth has Hal Hartley’s definitive authorial stamp, giving this film a unique and refreshing voice.

Saturday, January 20 7:00 p.m.
Sundance Screening Room

Sunday, January 21 7:00p.m.
Prospector Square Theatre

Tuesday, January 23 4:00 p.m.
Prospector Square Theatre

Wednesday, January 24 7:00 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre

Friday, January 28 10:00 a.m.
Egyptian Theatre


Screening Details

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