Rape and Remembrance in Tel Aviv

07/04/2012 4:00 AM |

Directed by Michal Aviad

Much of Invisible feels like the opening of a horror film: in particular, the ominous stretches before violence takes place. In the case of Israeli director Michal Aviad’s film, there’s a twist—the violence is in the past. Her two protagonists suffered sexual assault at the hands of a serial rapist twenty years ago. Television editor Nira (Evgenia Dodina) meets dance instructor and political activist Lily (Ronit Elkabetz) by chance and recalls that they first encountered each other at a police line-up. Nira becomes determined to find out as much as she can about “the Polite Rapist” and is angered to learn about his relatively lenient jail sentence.

Very few films have devoted as much time and energy to the long-term consequences of rape as Invisible. Aviad’s background lies in documentaries; this is her narrative debut. However, it’s grounded in reality. The Polite Rapist was a real person, and Invisible incorporates documentary footage of his victims and the rapist himself. It closes on a didactic note, informing the spectator that one in five women will be victims of rape or attempted rape during their lifetime. Aviad expresses her disgust with rape culture more subtly during most of the film itself, showing Lily and Nira gaining strength from their growing friendship and portraying Tel Aviv as a nocturnal, menacing city full of dark shadows and surprise encounters. Invisible seems to be a naturalist film, especially given its documentary elements, but it’s subtly stylized. In the end, Lily and Nira find their voice by picking up a video camera, and their story seems to merge with the director’s.

Opens July 9 at MoMA