Invisible

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Nematoma
"There's much to enjoy here, from the gripping performances, particularly from Taujanskaité and Bagdziunas to the handsome cinematography from Denis Luschick, showing bags of potential in his first feature" | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Ignas Jonynas took an interest in the morally murky side of humanity in The Gambler and he's back with more ethically compromised characters in his latest film. The action begins with a bloody puzzle as the aftermath of a violent incident cryptically introduces us to Jonas (Dainius Kazlauskas) and Vitas (Darius Bagdziunas), only to let us spend much of the film wondering what will ultimately connect them.

Vitas has just been released after a sentence for murder, a situation that has left him with an almost biblical desire for vengeance. The bible and religion are close at hand , with ideas of retribution and repentance also bubbling beneath the narrative. Like Vitas, Jonas is a storm of emotion, expressing his frustrations with life helping his blind uncle on a farm through dance that feels like the motion equivalent of a primal scream.

Copy picture

He's good but, he realises, not distinctive enough to make the talent show grade -  not until, that is, he happens on the idea of pretending to be blind. There is no doubt, from the outset, that this ruse will be discovered but it is the tension of when and how that acts as a slowly tightening noose of tension around the rest of the film. But first, comes fame, as talent show bosses immediately see the audience potential of the underdog and pair him with one of their stars Saule (Paulina Taujanskaité). She is resistant initially, but soon finds herself drawn to the unconventional physicality of Jonas's dancing. Scenes between the two of them crackle with tension and the twin danger of sexual possibility and the chance that she'll catch him in his lie.

“People want sad stories with happy endings,” someone says - but what you want and what you get from life are, as Jonynas will go on to show, two fundamentally different things. There's much to enjoy here, from the gripping performances, particularly from Taujanskaité and Bagdziunas to the handsome cinematography from Denis Luschick, showing bags of potential in his first feature, including the use of surprising crane shots or striking tableaux - no inch of the frame is wasted, so that, for example, as Jonas chats to his uncle,  part of a deer carcass bubbles away in a pan at the edge of the frame. More generally, the calm ambivalence of nature is contrasted with the manufactured surroundings of the talent show studio, right down to its green screen fakery. The mood is so good that it's a shame Jonynas ultimately bites off just a bit more than he can chew, with the ending suddenly coming at a rush that it's a shame after such a measured build. It cuts together so quickly that something feels lost in the editing process, although it still packs a punch.

Reviewed on: 14 Nov 2019
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Jonas pretends to be blind and enters a TV dance contest where he meets his attractive dance partner, Saulé. They soon become the show’s most popular contestants. Meanwhile, Vytas, an old acquaintance of Jonas, is released from jail thirsty for revenge...


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