Saturday, September 17, 2011


I'm having some seriously conflicted thoughts about this film. On one hand, 'The Invader' is a somewhat insightful and blunt look at the so-called taboos of interracial relationships (for those of you who are STILL interested in that subject matter in the year 2011) from the perspective of someone who clearly studied Claire Denis' early work like 'Chocolat' and 'No Fear No Die'. On the other hand, it comes off like racist propaganda against black males from the perspective of an angry (racist) white guy who's wife left him for a black guy.
'The Invader' - a noir-ish tale about an African man ("Amadou") who takes a one night stand with a shady blond statuesque femme fatale ("Agnes") a little too seriously - was one of the last movies at the Toronto Film Festival to really spark my interest. This was a truly thought provoking film. Without knowing about about this movie I knew where it was going after the beautifully shot opening sequence (below) which has quite a few (not so hidden) messages...

The Invader by Nicolas Provost from Wallonie Bruxelles Images on Vimeo.

See what I mean? The women in the opening shot is beautiful (even though this movie makes me feel guilty about thinking that) and the slow motion just enhances her beauty. But the camera slowly pans over to a group of African Immigrants washing up on shore which almost comes off like a metaphor for slavery (it should be noted that the Africans in the film are exploited by a white man and they live in a dirty underground warehouse almost like how slave quarters). But as soon as "Amadou" sees the naked white women, he stops everything just to gaze at her. Is this some kind of (projected) symbolism for the black man's obsession with white women? He just stops what he's doing and starts gazing at her, breathing heavily like some kind of a beast about to attack its prey. And speaking of portraying the black male as a beast, that's part of my problem with 'The Invader'. "Amadou" is a big guy and at certain points in the film he acts like a big man-child. Very immature & dumb. As the film progresses, Amadou becomes more & more maniacal and starts to stalk Agnes. Half the film feels like he's just roaming the streets looking for this white lady so he can "have her".

There's a very unsettling vibe to 'The Invader'. It kind of reminded me of a Lodge Kerrigan film (specifically Claire Dolan) with the creepy music and cold & hostile characters.
And some people will think I'm reaching here but 'The Invader' also plays off of the possible coded/hidden fears expressed in classic films like King King, Planet Of The Apes and even The Night Of The Living Dead. I don't think the racial overtones in King Kong & Planet Of The Apes need to be spelled out, but some people kind of graze over the symbolic ending of Night Of The Living Dead where the last survivor of a zombie apocalypse (who happens to be a Black man) is killed by the police because they mistake him for a zombie...

White people aren't off the hook in 'The Invader' either. Agnes (the female lead) is unfaithful to her husband (obviously), does illegal/under the table business with immigrant workers, and her encounter with Amadou almost seems like a fantasy of hers to have a fling with a black guy more than anything concerning attraction. Just like the stereotype about black men wanting to be with white women, 'The Invader' also plays in to the stereotype of white women viewing black males as sexual objects. The other white supporting characters in the film are either patronizing or hostile. Another major criticism that I had with 'The Invader' was that the director never really delved in to the Agnes' illegal business dealings.

Watching this film hit home. Not because I have some fascination with white women, but because I watched Bill Duke's documentary; 'Dark Girls', a documentary about the discrimination of dark skinned black women, a few days prior. Watching 'The Invader' afterwards only made my head hurt. I was also in Toronto. For those of you who haven't been to Toronto, there are attractive women of all races. But the majority of women there are white. Being the straight, single (at the time), non discriminatory guy that I am - I look at women that I think are attractive. Because I was in Canada, most of the women that caught my eye were white. After watching 'The Invader' I almost felt dirty looking at an attractive white women. It's kind of rare that a film can have that effect on a person. I don't think there's been a film since 'Jungle Fever' to really deal with racial taboos' like 'The Invader'. And I give the director credit for throwing some of the political correctness out the door. Any artist should feel free to say or do what he/she wants. But just remember that sometimes the outcome can turn in to movies like 'The Invader' which not only enlightens, but also potentially offends & alienates people. I don't think the director is racist, but there's some serious racial subconscious demons he's dealing with.

I want people to see this movie so I can have a continued discussion about it. But I doubt a movie like this will get a wide release in the U.S. If any of you happened to have been at Toronto and saw this, or if you get a chance to see it in the future, please let me know your opinion or if you think I'm completely off base.


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