The 2018 Danishka Esterhazy directorial, ‘Level 16,’ is a science fiction thriller movie set in a dystopian boarding school, The Vestalis Academy, that follows a group of teenage girls who are taught to be “clean” and flawless young women to get adopted by families after passing level 16 of the unusually regimented school. Amongst the students is the sixteen-year-old Vivien, who reunites with her former friend Sophia. Together, they set off on a mission to get to the bottom of the truth about the prison-like boarding school.
When the authorities suspect Vivien and Sophia’s actions, the two friends must do everything possible to save themselves. Starring Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Sara Canning, Peter Outerbridge, and Alexis Whelan, the mystery film highlights some realistic subjects, including the societal pressure women tend to face to act a particular way. Thus, it is natural for you to pose the question — is ‘Level 16’ inspired by an actual event or not? Luckily, we have gathered a detailed answer to that question to put your curiosity to bed once and for all!
Is Level 16 a True Story?
No, ‘Level 16’ is not based on a true story. However, the film’s thrilling storyline can be credited to the collaborative effort of the leading writer Danishka Esterhazy, the story editor Katharine Montagu, and the story consultant Ken Chubb. Danishka, who came up with the idea for the screenplay in 2006, right after graduating from film school, made use of her creative mind and put her brilliant writing prowess to work to create a symbolic and realistic screenplay for the drama movie.
Despite the narrative not having any connection with reality whatsoever, at least directly, it sheds light on some essential and fundamental subjects figuratively. Female suppression and the harassment women still face in almost all walks of life are a couple of predominant themes explored throughout the film. In a conversation with Daily Dead in March 2019, the writer/director Danishka Esterhazy was asked if these societal issues influenced her approach to writing the screenplay.
Danishka responded, “As a woman filmmaker, it is very important to me to tell stories about women from a woman’s point of view. So many films ignore half the population. I wanted to tell a universal story about oppression, economic exploitation, and the power of friendship, but with a strong female gaze.” During the same interview, she was asked if she was inspired by other movies, TV shows, or books during the conception of ‘Level 16.’
The filmmaker revealed, “I had two main influences. First, the movie ‘Logan’s Run,’ perhaps oddly, was one of my favorite films as a child. It was my introduction to the idea of dystopian stories and has always stayed with me. Second is the novel ‘Jane Eyre.’ I love gothic novels, I love the Brontës. And the first part of ‘Jane Eyre,’ which takes place in the Lowood Orphanage for Girls, has always haunted me.”
In March 2019, Danishka Esterhazy also sat down to talk about ‘Level 16’ with That Shelf. One of the topics of conversation was the movie’s timely release considering the feminist movements that were ongoing at that time. So, the movie’s nod to the criticism of the harassment and lack of safe spaces for women in the real world fueled the movements all the more. Since these real-life subjects and topics are explored in the movie, many of you will likely believe it is rooted in reality.
Thus, considering all the aspects mentioned above, it would be fair to say that Danishka Esterhazy took inspiration from some of her favorite movies and coupled that with her experience as a woman to conjure up such a realistic screenplay. Despite such relevant themes at play, it doesn’t change that ‘Level 16’ is not based on any particular true story.
Read More: Level 16 Ending, Explained