At one point in Skye Brogman’s captivating stranger-than-fiction documentary Abducted in Plain Sight, Joe Berchtold remarks that his brother Robert, who briefly worked at his car dealership, could sell anything. It turns out he was right. He had a way with words that enchanted many people, especially his neighbours the Broberg family.
To the Brobergs, Robert Berchtold was practically family. They would not only go on vacation with his wife and kids, but the charismatic man was over at their house almost every day. Little did the Brobergs know that Robert was systematically building trust so that he could get closer to their 12-year-old daughter Jan.
Through several revealing interviews, it is shocking how open Jan and her family are when talking with Brogman, the film highlights how Robert ended up kidnapping and brainwashing Jan in October of 1974. While the film’s structure may be conventional, the same cannot be said for the story. Credit must be given to Brogman for making such an intriguing film out of a truly bizarre tale. One spends half the film wondering how the family could have been so blind to what was really occurring, and the other half being creeped out by how calculated Robert was.
A disturbing film on several levels, what is truly fascinating about Brogman’s film is the crucial role that Jan’s parents play. Each with their own secrets directly tied to Robert, and the desire to bury their shame, inadvertently put their interests above their daughter’s safety which is astounding to behold.
A tale so unbelievable that it leaves one’s jaw permanently on the floor, Abducted in Plain Sight manages to slowly get under one’s skin, just like Robert himself.