The Invisible Life
The Invisible Life (A Vida Invisível) was released in its native Portugal in 2013 to much fanfare, resulting primarily from its being the first feature-length showing from acclaimed director Vítor Gonçalves in over 25 years. Given the cult filmmaker’s protracted absence from the medium, it’s perhaps telling that he has produced a detailed study of isolation and reluctance to engage with the world.
Hugo (Filipe Duarte) is deeply affected by the death of his boss Antonio (João Perry), though this is not the cinematic exploration of bereavement and tribute that one might traditionally expect. More concerned at no longer having a mentor to assist him with an overdue report than at the loss of a friend, Hugo enters a depressive state of inward angst and fearful separation from his life. Old flame Adriana (Maria João Pinho) returns into that life, a beaming embodiment of hope and the chance of happiness, but – to win her back – Hugo must reawaken his jealous obsession with the dead.
As an exercise in imparting emotion through film, The Invisible Life is a great success. A low-budget independent production, it is shot with a remarkable precision and a clear and compelling visual grammar. The austere architecture of Lisbon’s governmental headquarters and the shadowy interior decor of the home left empty by Antonio provide the brooding Duarte with the perfect backgrounds against which to expertly portray a man bereft. Connecting the imagery of Hugo’s emotional exile with the past, the film is cut through with profoundly lonely excerpts from the grainy super-8 archive bequeathed to Hugo in Antonio’s will. João Pinho’s Adriana soars into view against the contrasting backdrop of a shining sea full of promise, and the actress does well to portray the energy-sapping effect of a lugubrious lover. Unfortunately, that same effect is likely to be felt by audiences, making the experience of watching The Invisible Life something of an ordeal; engaging, but not terribly entertaining.
Though certain scenes (such as one in which Hugo re-orders the ornaments in his otherwise empty aquarium) will linger in the memory, it’s an unavoidable fact that one man’s moping cannot sustain narrative impetus across 103 minutes of running time. Sadly, an emotional relevance initially established with skill ultimately gives way to boredom, and for all the visual artistry on display, the sight likely to incite most excitement is that of the end credits.
The Invisible Life is released nationwide on 17th April 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Invisible Life here: