Die Unsichtbare: A Film that Does not go Far Enough

4. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

< Martin Schwowow, the director of Die Unsichtbare

Every year in the main competition of Karlovy Vary there are these quite nice films which are well shot and earnestly acted and you watch them with pleasure but then after a while you realise that they are quite forgettable. They are here every year and I would name them, except frankly I can't remember them.

I think that Die Unsichtbare will be one of them, too. The story of a shy actress with a traumatic family life and a stressful mother is chosen to everyone's surprise to star in a play about an overly sexualised girl who uses seduction as a weapon and a way of life. Clearly there is something hidden within this young actress Josephine, waiting to be tapped and turned into theatre gold. She starts on the path of self-discovery, looking for the dark and shadowy within her.

She has sex with the director. She argues with her mother. She has sex with a stranger. She slits her wrists. Then she gives a good performance -- hurrah! Sadly, somehow, it all seems so familiar.. Didn't we see the same thing last year in Black Swan? To remember the plot of that film: a shy girl with a stressful mother is chosen for the lead in a very challenging production by a respected director and starts trying to open herself, has sex with a stranger (maybe, anyway she imagines it a lot), argues with her mother, stabs herself with a big piece of glass, and gives an amazing performance. Hurrah!

Both these stories try to examine a problem that is certainly very interesting. To what extent do you have to open yourself to be a great artist? Can you be great and still live peacefully in society? Do you have to cause pain to yourself and the people around you to summon up raw emotion? And, will every art or drama student inevitably try to kill themselves? Even Diderot wondered about these issues in Le neveu de Rameau -- Racine was a bastard, but look at the beautiful work he produced -- so is he justified? Is Die Unsichtbare's director justified in treating his actors like lemons and squeezing out every drop just to get an interesting show?

I start to wonder, when this film raises such interesting questions, why is it so underwhelming? Perhaps because they are eternal questions, there needs to be some edge to the portrayal. If the film deals with pushing yourself to the very edge, it feels a bit unsatisfying when the film itself sits comfortably within conventionality. Black Swan, though certainly not without its own problems, experimented with the psychology of the young artist. She was willing to push the boundaries and even crossed over into madness. This film was halfway between psychological drama and horror, and for that it certainly posed the question of an artists' sacrifices from a new angle.

A comparison also inevitably arises with Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes (1948), which also tells the story of a girl who dreams of being a great ballerina and has to choose between life and art. Though this film is less psychological and more romantic, still we feel some sharpness to the issue -- we fear for Vicky, and rightly so, she ends up being trampled by a train. In this film, however, we feel absolutely no danger of anything happening. When Josephine took a razor to her wrists in Die Unsichtbare, I genuinely believed that either she wouldn't go through with it, or that it was a joke.

Josephine finally decided that she is not willing to have breakdowns in order to be an actress. She ends up happy, and everything is great. Arguably, this is maybe the most realistic ending to a film like this, but in fact it does not make for very good drama, and hence the film's message is muddied. Should we sacrifice for art, or not? This film itself did not push any boundaries and so its ideas and itself will sadly forgotten. Ask me next year, and we'll see.


Obsah vydání | Sobota 10.12. 2016