I, Psychopath (TV Movie 2009) Poster

(2009 TV Movie)

User Reviews

Review this title
8 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
masterpiece of documentary
couponoffs24 April 2009
I've just seen this great peace of film on "arte".

It was a very impressive documentary about a man (Sam Vaknin) who claims to be a psychopath and manipulates the people around him. the filmmaker Ian Walker accompanies Sam and his wife Lidija in journey through Europe, visiting psychologist and Neuroscientist to test Sam's psychopathy.

The interesting point of the film is not proceeding on the assumption that psychopaths are criminal, mass-murderers or even (physically) dangerous nor that they can be recognize at first sight.

In contrast to most other psychopaths, Sam wants to find out about his character/substance and why he is ready to hurt him and others to achieve his goals.

i am very sorry for Ian Walker. he sacrifices himself to his film, science and the truth, while being attacked by Sam the whole time. i have hardly seen filmmakers committing mayhem to themselves like this. (:
16 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The most interesting documentary you will ever see.
DiscoViolento31 October 2010
OK, so the title might be a big statement. I haven't seen all documentaries ever made and I bet a lot of people will disagree with me.

Note, I never said this was the BEST documentary. But in its simplicity, there is something incredibly interesting and also quite groundbreaking. And here is why:

Sam Vaknin is a self-declared expert on Narcissistic personality disorder and is perhaps most famous for the book "Malignant self-love" which he wrote together with his wife Lydia. Successful businessman turned eco-criminal, Sam is now a doctor of psychology who suffers from all 10 traits of Narcissistic Personality disorder as well as psychopathic traits. Another man who had all 10 traits was Brian Blackwell, who beat both of his parents to death just to cover up the lies he'd told his girlfriend.

In other words, if all this is true, Sam is a very dangerous man.

Ian Walker follows Sam as he undergoes tests that will confirm whether he is indeed a psychopath or not. As the film goes on we get to follow both Sam and the tests he takes as well as Ian himself, describing his relationship with his subject. Ian also interviews Lydia, Sam's wife. As the testing process becomes more in-depth, the story of their journey becomes more complex and in the end they paint a very insightful portrait of what being a psychopath really means.

Though it might be a quite scary revelation, this movie asks some very interesting questions:

Can a psychopath ever be self aware?

If so, can that person control their behavior?

And if we can teach a psychopath to control their behavior before they do something dangerous, what would that mean for society?

And for those who say that this is just one person basking in his own glory - that's exactly what it is. And that's why it is so interesting.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Compelling viewing
hte-trasme22 December 2009
This is a fascinating documentary about a fascinating subject -- a man who is -- or believes he is a psychopath, and whether his claims can be verified. Like good food for thought, it raises more questions than it answers: How can a psychopath be self aware enough to know and be curious about his psychopathy? Can he be faking being a psychopath? Would doing that make him a psychopath? It's so fascinating at least in part because we can get closer but never really arrive at these answers. It's a credit to the filmmaker that I wished it had gone on longer.

Personal taste but I found myself wishing the focus were less on the implications of psychopathy in the business world and on general background, and on even narrower character study of Sam and his wife. The documentarian, though, is to be commended on his insight, self-reflection, and thoroughness in presenting a picture of such a difficult subject to capture. In the end I was left eager to know more about Sam what drives him, and disturbed by his pattern of behavior as well.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Interesting on several levels.
rai_y_day25 March 2010
I've followed Sam's writings for years. Interesting to see him 'live'.

I've had such people in my life & frequently experienced situations like one the Film maker described. Where he had no idea what mood Sam would be & how Sam'll fly in a rage with no obvious external 'provocation'. Some of the bad footage was done on a secret camera to counter Sam's careful manipulative stunts & how he was trying to keep control the whole process. I've seen these subtle stunts for well over a decade with such horrors in my life.

I found it interesting to see what was NOT said - some of his background was not confirmed - was his mother verbally abusive or was it just a sympathy ploy? What did his family have to say about it?

It was painful watching when the Film maker caught some of the subtle belittling attacks - words with the cutting percussion of a surgical blade. (but leads you open to amateur efforts ) The Film maker was only exposed to this bloke for a few weeks & he was scared, he'll never forget this experience.

5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Can't trust the director
Shemzl24 March 2010
Sam Vaknin, the subject of this documentary, we are told, has a high IQ (185!!!), a sense of humor, an irresistible charm, a fake doctorate, and a submissive-codependent doll of a wife. I saw no sign of the first three. Sam is nothing short of loathsome, with a reptilian quality that would send shivers down any normal spine. He is a sadistic and robotically methodical verbal thug who exalts in his handiwork as he reduces everyone around him to stammering nervous wrecks. His wife, Lydia, is a tragic, heart-wrenching, truly lovable figure. What she sees in this physically and spiritually repulsive putrid shell of a human being is beyond me. The moments with her were the strongest in the movie and Walker made a bad call of not pivoting the film around her demure presence. I hope she doesn't get her wish and have kids with Vaknin. She and her children deserve far better.

But I harbor grave suspicions regarding the director of this "gem", Ian Walker. Clearly, there is no love lost between him and his protagonist, Vaknin. Equally clearly, we cannot trust him to be truthful and to avoid the kind of editing that borders on misleading the viewer.

Consider Sam's allegedly forged academic degree. Whatever his shortcomings and repugnant traits, Sam is brutally and unflinchingly and invariably and unfailingly honest about himself, his disorder, and what a monster he is. Why would he lie about an irrelevant and minor topic like his academic degree? Throughout the film and in its closing 2 minutes Sam protests that he had attended a full-fledged university with campus, faculty and students; that he had submitted a doctoral dissertation (indeed, it can be found in the Library of Congress!); and that he has had to defend it. Walker than plucks a sentence out of context and adds it artificially to Vaknin's previous protestations to create the (patently false!) impression that Vaknin admits to having a fake doctorate!!!

Or, consider this: Walker meticulously documents Vaknin's abusive raging outbursts. On many occasions, it is crystal-clear that Vaknin is reacting to off-camera taunting and ill-treatment by Walker. Walker even admits in his PR material to having "poked this snake with a stick". The film's logo is an image of Walker decapitating Vaknin! But Walker never shows us what he did to Vaknin - only what Vaknin did to him, ostensibly unprovoked. Walker uses clever, one-sided editing to achieve a highly unethical result: a misrepresentation of what happened, for sure!

This is what I mean when I say that I cannot trust the seethingly hateful, resentful, and envious Walker to be an impartial guide to Vaknin's circumstances, conduct, and psyche.

Shouldn't documentary filmmakers harbor at least a modicum of sympathy and compassion in order to avoid the voyeuristic pornography that most exposes become? Walker failed to skirt this particular trap. Hence 7 stars instead of 10.
11 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
insightflow14 February 2011
I came across SV's writings following online manipulation by a narcissist, like many others. I did find a lot of it credible, although I immediately got suspicious due to some instances where he seems to lose his "objectivity", and make claims such as "the universe is chaotic and intrinsically evil; my future looks dark", etc. I contacted him on FB and he'd respond to some of my messages - he'd ignore others, which raised my suspicion. Luckily for me, soon enough one of his groupies linked me to this film. How could have someone seen it, and still be a "groupie", is beyond me. Anyway, I spontaneously commented: "Lidja needs help!" - after which I was immediately deleted from SV's friend-list. Let this serve as a good lesson to me - I believed he did actually have some common sense.

He looks like a desperate and distressed child, moreover, making such silly self-compromising mistakes. So, the answer to a commenter above is - no, a psychopath cannot unfortunately be self-aware.

But, while typing all this, I keep thinking one thing: this person, Lidja, is with this thing now. And nobody does anything to help her??!!

P.S. I totally agree with the comment of Shemzl. I did have the feeling the filmmaker was unnecessarily involved, and making himself an object of his film, along with Vaknin. However, this could serve as a further warning to the viewer - do not underestimate the suggestive power of manipulators.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
castilesoap6 August 2014
The whole point of Sam taking part in this documentary was self promotion, to promote his book and to show the world how intelligent he is. When things did not go his way, the diagnosis he is not narcissistic and his credentials were questioned, he decided to sabotage the documentary by escalating.

This behaviour was to intimidate the film-maker into ending the project. IT WORKED! I think this could have been predicted. This is one of the tactics of the psychopath. I think the film maker should have researched more and been prepared for this. We have one advantage over psychopaths, they are predictable. Once you become aware of the tactics, you always know they will always behave this way. This is one of their weaknesses, another is bragging on tape!

It would have been interesting to see the violent reaction if the tape of Sam bragging about his purchased credentials at the time he defended them with the psychologist. You think Sam was abusive at the end of the film, it would have been fireworks, just to get the focus away from being caught out!

My high score is due to the fact it exposed how totally stupid psychopaths are, it doesn't make them any less dangerous to the uninformed. It is rare to see this on film, their manipulation usually doesn't allow it. Most of us would have used common and not taken part because we know our lies would be uncovered. The psychopaths ego would over-ride common sense and risk does not phase them, they thrive on it. Great doco!
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An absolutely ludicrous treatment of a fascinating human condition
sacbutt25 March 2010
I would expect that "I, Psychopath" will take it's rightful place in the annals of scarumentary (crockumentary?) next to " Reefer Madness" sometime in the coming decade or so.

OK, slightly (ever so) less lurid than the latter. (The score of '5' reflects it's entertainment value only)

But Please. A director incapable of setting limits on his subject? Who is this "documentary" about?

"For months afterwards, bits of Sam's taunts come back to haunt me"?

What actually WAS the point of this 30 minutes-that-I-shall-never-retrieve? (Yes, I DID miss the first 30 minutes, thankfully) But really, is this a "beware, they're out there"?

Or a "they live and they wonder about their life" (If so, we-e-e-ll, has Big Brother not already done this to death?? AND been taken off the airwaves?!)kinda effort?

Or is this a self serving rehash of a-a-all those times that the mean boys were, well, mean, dressed up as a sycophantic attempt to capture a sound byte and be able to essentialise and dismiss as 'pathology' a complex interaction between the aberrant self (cos Vaknin = not a your most stable of tables) as 'self being viewed' by 'self assuming a nonjudgemental-but-nonetheless-emotionally-involved- stance'

And what fresh hell is this?? Espousing the diagnostic test "PCL whatnot" as a definitive measure of Is He a Psychopath? Gaaaah! Strewth, what next, Phrenology as the Next Big Thing?

Ech. Tiresome stuff. Pass me the librium, slap that whinging director, tell that silly man Vaknin "No, not allowed", his wife maybe to get some help with her self esteem issues and shame on you, ABC, for screening this programme without a "park your credulity here" disclaimer.
4 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed