Published Sep 23, 2011Opening on the static image of a vagina (labia and all), The Invader pulls back to reveal the woman it's attached to walking across a nude beach towards illegal immigrant Amadou (Isaka Sawadogo) as he washes up on shore.
It's a dualist visual trajectory repeated intermittently while our protagonist manoeuvres through an alien landscape, fleeing from exploitive slave labourers and clinging to the attractive, well-to-do Agnés (Stefania Rocca) for potential job prospects and security. Whenever he gives pause for a swim at a local pool or steps away to attack a potential foe, a foreboding score gives focus to vaginal imagery.
It's a stylistic decision that can be read many ways, much like the film. We can interpret it as the title suggests, wherein Amadou (who introduces himself as Obama to Agnés and other female targets) is perceived as an alien assailant, or invader, with the potential to harm and violate the many women freely walking through their domains. There's also the possibility that the vagina represents the freedom and desire of new European land and assurances, luring this man into danger and false promises.
Regardless, it's indicative of a movie looking to challenge dominant assertions, with director Nicolas Provost smartly remaining neutral in his depiction of a man's desperation to find shelter in a new country, even if it means harming and harassing others. Whether we read him as villain or victim has much to do with our politics, which is part of the genius of The Invader: it provides a compelling and dark tapestry from which we can draw our own conclusions.
Beyond the occasionally contradictory, perilous score and a clever opening title sequence involving mirror images of tunnels and travel, this Belgian thriller remains stylistically loose but taut, never giving way to familiar tropes or safety nets.
It makes for consistently tense viewing, which is only exacerbated by a problematic political assertion that, if read a certain way, could imply that exclusion is the impetus behind attack. (Versus Production)