It’s been seven years since authorities nabbed the North Pond Hermit in central Maine on his final midnight food run. Now, during this global pandemic, we’re all living a little more like Christopher Knight: Sneaking out for food, stockpiling supplies and seeing no one.
That’s why the French filmmaker who produced a documentary on the secretive celebrity who made headlines around the globe has just made her short movie free for online streaming.
On Monday, the anniversary of Knight’s capture, Lena Friedrich made “The Hermit – The True Legend of The North Pond Hermit,” available on Vimeo.
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“In the last weeks I have received a lot of messages from people asking where they can see the film,” said director Friedrich. “I think it’s because a few articles came out about the benefits of solitude and mentioned Christopher Knight as a ‘solitude expert.’”
Knight — long thought to be an imaginary bogey man — was arrested on April 13, 2013, in Rome while leaving the Pine Tree Camp with a number of food items. He later admitted to committing more than 1,000 burglaries in the North Pond area over the course of the 27 years he spent alone, living in the woods. Knight pleaded guilty in October 2013 to 13 counts of burglary.
Knight was released from Kennebec County Jail in Augusta on Nov. 4, after he completed a seven-month jail sentence as part of a plea agreement.
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Friedrich came to Maine with a small film crew in May 2013 in search of the hermit’s story. She never spoke to Knight, instead focusing on the community around him, including several of his victims. The documentary later premiered in Waterville before hitting the film festival circuit.
“My film doesn’t contain any insight on how to make the best of social isolation, but it certainly gives some perspective,” Friedrich said from her home in Paris, France, where she is currently in lockdown. “You find that staying six feet apart from people during two months is difficult? Think about staying miles apart from everybody for 27 years.”
Friedrich is also an actress, appearing in films such as Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and the 2019 comedy “The Art of Self-Defense.”
In 2017, magazine journalist Mike Finkel wrote a book about Knight. To this day, he’s the only writer who has ever scored an interview with the still-reclusive figure. The book, “Stranger in the Woods,” ends with Knight working in his brother’s junkyard, not far from where he made his woodland home for nearly three decades.
While Friedrich doesn’t believe her film reveals any tips for making it through the current situation, she does think it can help us think a little deeper about how we were living before COVID-19.
“He is far from being a role model — he is a thief — but I think his story can help us question and rethink our current lifestyle of obsessive consumption and optimization,” she said. “Without always realizing it, we constantly try to optimize our material comfort, our achievements, our productivity, our relationships, and our looks. Here is a man who just didn’t give a damn about any of that. Knight shows us that trying to be a success is not the only way to live. He challenges us.”
Besides being food for serious contemplation, Friedrich hopes the film can also just lighten the current somber mood.
“It is a playful and humorous documentary and, in the current context, that’s most valuable,” she said. “I hope it will cheer people up.”
Editor’s note: The author of this article appears in Friedrich’s film.