Camera ObscuraCultureSpiegeloog 409: Conflict

Camera Obscura: Abducted in Plain Sight

By January 4, 2021January 14th, 2021No Comments

Abducted in Plain Sight, a true-crime documentary from 2017 that recently debuted on Netflix tells the shocking story of the kind-hearted and friendly neighbour of the Broberg family who does things that will change them forever: he manipulates, lies, and eventually kidnaps 12-year old Jan. Twice. 

“She was a beautiful little girl, very bright and very lively. She smiled brightly at me. And as she smiled, there were definite dimples in both cheeks. My heart went out to her. I walked up to her, put my arm around her, and pulled her close to me. I held her tight. She looked up to me, her eyes beaming, and I knew I had found my little girl I was searching for.” With these spine-chilling phrases, the true-crime documentary begins and introduces the viewer to a shocking and almost unbelievable story.

The Broberg family consists of Jan, her parents, and two younger sisters. In this documentary, the family reconstructs the dark story from their past that scarred them for life and defines who they are as a family today. The story begins over 45 years ago, in the year 1974. Neighbour Robert Berchtold kidnaps Jan to Mexico where he manipulates her into having sexual intercourse and marries her. Thereupon, it is shown what the previous years looked like. After meeting the ‘nicest’ new family in the neighbourhood, the Broberg and Berchtold family grew close. However, Robert was fixated on the young Jan from the beginning. During the documentary, the viewer is being shocked time after time with both the naïvity of the parents and how strongly Robert has manipulated them. Romantic and sexual affairs transpire, relationships are being destroyed, and Robert finds a way to infiltrate the family from different sides. Not only does he ‘brainwash’ the preteen, but also her entire family. After he had kidnapped Jan the first time, Robert Berchtold was said to have ‘adequate’ reasons why he had to spend 4 days a week in bed with the 12-year-old. Moreover, he made Jan believe it is her ‘mission’ to procreate with him, her neighbour and father-figure she loved so much. “I can’t believe how we have been so gullible, while there were so many red flags. But I didn’t see the red flags”, said Bob Broberg, Jan’s father. 

The documentary Abducted in Plain Sight ticks off every box associated with disgust, disbelief, and frustration. At first, the viewer is led to believe that the family Broberg are trustful souls that simply do not recognize the bad intentions of their neighbour. However, later on, the documentary reveals dark secrets between the two families which made them less likely to publicly try to get their daughter back. 

The integrity of this documentary is impressive. Besides long interviews with family members, FBI agents, and neighbours, Abducted in Plain Sight contains video reconstructions, pictures, and audio fragments of the culprit during interrogation. The viewer can’t help but be impressed by the sincere and detailed story told by the Broberg family, despite their wrongdoings. However, some events seem extremely bizarre, such that viewers might doubt the credibility of the story. For instance, Bob Broberg stated in the beginning that Berchtold’s behaviour was disturbing and that it would be the last time that he would be  allowed to spend time alone with Jan. However, later in the story he uses the lack of knowledge about sex offenders in that time to justify his naïvity. Also, he claimed not to see the ‘red flags’ and allowed Berchtold to spend evenings alone with Jan, in her bedroom. Today, Jan Broberg is a 58-year-old successful actress, singer, and dancer, but the horrors she has lived through might be difficult if not impossible to forget. 

Altogether, Abducted in Plain Sight is shocking, bizarre, and disturbing. Whether you are as a psychologist interested in the master manipulation of neighbour Robert Berchtold, you want to hear a horrifying true story, or you are looking to feel shocked time after time, this documentary is definitely interesting and without a doubt will be sure to stick with you for a long time. 

Directed by: Skye Borgman

This documentary is available now on Netflix.

Abducted in Plain Sight, a true-crime documentary from 2017 that recently debuted on Netflix tells the shocking story of the kind-hearted and friendly neighbour of the Broberg family who does things that will change them forever: he manipulates, lies, and eventually kidnaps 12-year old Jan. Twice. 

“She was a beautiful little girl, very bright and very lively. She smiled brightly at me. And as she smiled, there were definite dimples in both cheeks. My heart went out to her. I walked up to her, put my arm around her, and pulled her close to me. I held her tight. She looked up to me, her eyes beaming, and I knew I had found my little girl I was searching for.” With these spine-chilling phrases, the true-crime documentary begins and introduces the viewer to a shocking and almost unbelievable story.

The Broberg family consists of Jan, her parents, and two younger sisters. In this documentary, the family reconstructs the dark story from their past that scarred them for life and defines who they are as a family today. The story begins over 45 years ago, in the year 1974. Neighbour Robert Berchtold kidnaps Jan to Mexico where he manipulates her into having sexual intercourse and marries her. Thereupon, it is shown what the previous years looked like. After meeting the ‘nicest’ new family in the neighbourhood, the Broberg and Berchtold family grew close. However, Robert was fixated on the young Jan from the beginning. During the documentary, the viewer is being shocked time after time with both the naïvity of the parents and how strongly Robert has manipulated them. Romantic and sexual affairs transpire, relationships are being destroyed, and Robert finds a way to infiltrate the family from different sides. Not only does he ‘brainwash’ the preteen, but also her entire family. After he had kidnapped Jan the first time, Robert Berchtold was said to have ‘adequate’ reasons why he had to spend 4 days a week in bed with the 12-year-old. Moreover, he made Jan believe it is her ‘mission’ to procreate with him, her neighbour and father-figure she loved so much. “I can’t believe how we have been so gullible, while there were so many red flags. But I didn’t see the red flags”, said Bob Broberg, Jan’s father. 

The documentary Abducted in Plain Sight ticks off every box associated with disgust, disbelief, and frustration. At first, the viewer is led to believe that the family Broberg are trustful souls that simply do not recognize the bad intentions of their neighbour. However, later on, the documentary reveals dark secrets between the two families which made them less likely to publicly try to get their daughter back. 

The integrity of this documentary is impressive. Besides long interviews with family members, FBI agents, and neighbours, Abducted in Plain Sight contains video reconstructions, pictures, and audio fragments of the culprit during interrogation. The viewer can’t help but be impressed by the sincere and detailed story told by the Broberg family, despite their wrongdoings. However, some events seem extremely bizarre, such that viewers might doubt the credibility of the story. For instance, Bob Broberg stated in the beginning that Berchtold’s behaviour was disturbing and that it would be the last time that he would be  allowed to spend time alone with Jan. However, later in the story he uses the lack of knowledge about sex offenders in that time to justify his naïvity. Also, he claimed not to see the ‘red flags’ and allowed Berchtold to spend evenings alone with Jan, in her bedroom. Today, Jan Broberg is a 58-year-old successful actress, singer, and dancer, but the horrors she has lived through might be difficult if not impossible to forget. 

Altogether, Abducted in Plain Sight is shocking, bizarre, and disturbing. Whether you are as a psychologist interested in the master manipulation of neighbour Robert Berchtold, you want to hear a horrifying true story, or you are looking to feel shocked time after time, this documentary is definitely interesting and without a doubt will be sure to stick with you for a long time. 

Directed by: Skye Borgman

This documentary is available now on Netflix.

Elise van Graven

Author Elise van Graven

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