by CELIA BROCKER
At first glance it’s too easy to dismiss ‘The Invisible Man’ as a throwaway thriller film. But despite its simple plot, the message of this film is no throwaway and should stick with every person who leaves the theater.
The driving force of the narrative is the protagonist – Cecilia – who has recently left her abusive boyfriend, Adrian. When she receives word that he has died by suicide and has left her 5 million dollars, it seems to good to be true.
And too good to be true it is. Not only is Adrian alive, but he has accomplished the impossible by finding a way to become invisible. But only Cecilia and the audience are aware of the truth, and the latter is forced to watch helplessly as Adrian uses his newfound discovery to punish Cecilia for leaving him and dragging her back to him.
Make no mistake, the face of ‘The Invisible Man’ is Cecilia. Played by Elizabeth Moss – the star from Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – Cecilia is a force to be reckoned with. Though the deck is heavily stacked against her she stays fighting well after many would have given up, refusing to give in to Adrian. Moss plays every facet of her struggle, desperation and girt, with a ferocity that will move even the most cold-hearted viewer.
The film uses the hidden antagonist to its full capacity, relying heavily on sound or lack thereof. From the opening scene we concentrate heavily on the sound coming from every character, since the majority of the film is built on characters sneaking around. The quiet is eerie and does its job in putting the audience on edge, anxiously waiting for something big to happen, which is when the music finally kicks in. And though there is little score to this film, when the music does come in it is striking and filled with tension.
But characters and effects aside, the most important element of the film is the spotlight it shines on abusive relationships. Even now that our society is more aware nowadays, victim blaming is still constant. People like to point their fingers and say “but they should’ve known better” or something like it because it’s easier than admitting that there are people with monsters under their skins that aren’t easily detectable.
One of the best parts of ‘The Invisible Man’ is that we are never shown Cecilia and Adrain’s relationship before she decides to leave him. Not how/when she fell for him, or how long it took her to notice that something was wrong. We never see any of this because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she is in a terrible situation, not how she came to be there. It is no one’s fault by Adrian’s how things turned out.
The literal invisible abuser is clearly an exaggerated metaphor for how abusers are able to go unnoticed. Adrian follows every trademark abuser technique – he controls everything about Cecilia’s life, he isolates her from her friends and family, makes it impossible for her to succeed without him and squashes her self-esteem until she feels like she’s worth nothing. And no one is able, or willing, to help her.
Again and again we see Cecilia reach out and be denied. She is never believed when she points to Adrian as the source of her turmoil, because it is more convenient for them not to believe her. This is a mirror to how our justice system works in real life. Women are often not heard or believe if they dare to speak up against their abuser, and are then abandoned to fight their own battles like Cecilia.
Even after the abuser has been “caught” there is no justice for Cecilia from the legal side of things. In order to scrape by with no personal penalties she is told to lie and compromise her experience with a half-truth, while her abuser goes free. So she uses her own power to find her justice on her own.
As frustrating as it is to see the system push Cecilia aside, it was ultimately the wisest direction the film could have taken. It’s frustrating to no end and that is good. They should be upset, because it’s happening every day in real life.