THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) is an adaptation of H.G. Welles’s story, updated for the new century. It tells the tale of Adrian (Olivier Cohen), an optical technology executive who has invented an invisibility suit. The executive is obsessed with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), an independent-minded girl. When the relationship turns toxic, Cecilia breaks it, but Adrian puts on his invisibility suit and proceeds to stalk her.
Much has been written about this film in the context of ME,TOO debates. Nobody believes Cecilia when she complains about the stalking. In a world of powerful men, women’s voices are often invisible. But the film does not come to any straightforward conclusions. Cecilia can be seen as the victim, and her journey as a struggle for empowerment. Nevertheless, you have to wonder why she allows sociopaths into her life. In the end, when Cecilia confronts Adrian, she is like the classic femme fatale from film noirs (e.g. Basic Instinct 2). Her rage contains an excessive element. She seems to enjoy vengeance just a little bit too much.
This is all a riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s icy blonde. THE INVISIBLE MAN quotes VERTIGO profusely, and with good reason. The blonde in that classic is a projection of the man’s possessive desire. At the same time, she confronts the man with his illusions. In the end, it appears that neither the man nor the woman grasp desire. In between their respective gazes, there is a third perspective. THE INVISIBLE MAN looks for it in technology.
At a crucial juncture, the invisibility suit malfunctions. Adrian appears as an ‘’augmented reality’’ ghost. Visually, the suggestion is that this body does not belong to a particular character. Because it is half-formed, one gets the impression that a new entity is being born. It seems to come from an uncanny dimension. This dimension is located beyond the subjective point-of-view. Danger belongs to nobody in particular, and the viewer does not have any privileged knowledge. One is tempted to invoke conspiracy theory. But the police and the psychiatric ward are equally clueless. The concept of the unstable narrator takes on a whole new meaning. It is not just that we can’t trust Cecilia, the police, or the screenwriter. We can’t trust ourselves, because the vantage point itself is invisible.