Thursday, January 26, 2012
Daniel Schneidkraut's "INVINCIBLE FORCE": Power. Strength. Confidence. Assholery.
Invincible Force (2011)
Directed by Daniel Schneidkraut
Written by Daniel Schneidkraut and Andrew Martin
Invincible Force Blog
Sepulchral Voice Productions on Vimeo
Daniel Schneidkraut's latest feature, Invincible Force, is a damn ugly movie. I mean that with the utmost respect. Considering the parameters of the premise, it had to be executed in a very specific way. If you've seen last year's brooding, but blackly humorous Seeking Wellness (see Mike's review), you know that his art lies not in the surface aesthetics, but in the ideas being expressed within a lo-fi presentation. There are no gimmicks or tricks here, only long cuts and specific compositions shot in low tech. In Schneidkraut's world, the idea of "cutting edge" isn't expensive equipment, it's the lacerations caused by the ideas. Everything is laid right at your feet, exposed like a freshly opened cadaver. The contents spilling out are insecurity, low self-esteem, depression, cancer, suicide. You know, the things that we all try to repress and ignore, but are still very much a part of wonderful, horrible life. Ugly, beautiful stuff.
This isn't to say that Mr. Schneidkraut isn't thinking visually or to degrade him as a filmmaker or artist. His craft is in tinkering with the framing and subverting expectations while running us through a grinder of emotion. He knows exactly what he's doing even if it's not immediately apparent. Invincible Force is a great follow up to Seeking Wellness in terms of style. Seeking Wellness was broken up into vignettes, all a mixture of nihilism with a whiff of faint hope. Similarly, Invincible Force gives us glimmers of inspiration, only to yank it right from under our noses. It functions as a commentary about body image, masculinity, media, self-improvement, and relationships, but makes no definitive statements about any of them. It's all left up to the viewer how to interpret things. The longer running time of a full length film gives him more time to work us over.
Why did I call Invincible Force ugly? There are many reasons. But first, I need to explain the concept. The story is told from the perspective of Minnesota metalhead Drew (Drew Ailes), an out-of-shape young man who enjoys porn, horror films, video games, and pro wrestling. You know, all the good things in life. He's got a sweet girlfriend named Amber (Anissa Siobhan Brazill), and a buddy Chris (Chris Bakke) who comes over to hang and drink beer. His dead end job isn't exactly stimulating, and it's tough to pay the bills. To top it off, Drew is not on speaking terms with his father. His life isn't necessarily horrible, but he realizes he's just spinning his wheels, on the verge of entering a hopeless arena in his life. He's unhealthy, and with Amber getting a little antsy about the stagnation of their relationship, Drew realizes steps need to be taken to improve a number of things.
Eager to make a change, he takes on a fitness challenge designed to make him a muscular captain-of-his-own destiny in 90 days. He decides to video tape his progress over the full course of the regimen known simply as "The Program". Invincible Force is the documentary chronicling his mission, and we, the sick little voyeurs, get to watch him every step of the way.
Drew discards his formerly pleasurable obsessions like beer and record collecting in favor of a new one: his own body. Throughout the course of the film, we witness the changes not only in his body, but in his demeanor and attitude. What begins as a means of achieving a healthier, more fulfilling life simultaneously triggers Drew's regression in other ways. Sure, he can do more pushups, has more definition in his arms, and a newfound swagger, but at the same time, he adopts a judgemental attitude toward those closest to him. Impressive martial arts moves and optimum cardiovascular health don't help much with the way he handles relationships. The man gets downright cocky, and it may be too late to realize he's put a lot of important things in jeopardy.
Drew is by no means a professional filmmaker, so Schneidkraut relies on an arsenal of outdated video technology (VHS, VHS-C, Hi8 cameras) and borderline amateurish techniques to piece the story together. This serves two purposes: to provide the utmost realism in keeping with a verite style; and, to keep the budget very low. In fact, according to Schneidkraut, Invincible Force was made for ZERO dollars, using found equipment and materials, and shot mostly within the confines of his own apartment. Regardless of budgetary reasons, a "professional" or slick look would nullify everything Schneidkraut set out to do.
You'd think a two hour film chronicling the exercise routine of a man over 90 days would be dull, right? Not so. Oddly enough, the minimal story, restrained visuals, and lo-fi execution makes for some compelling viewing. Drew takes his camera along with him to work, and we get to see how the Program has changed the way he interacts with co-workers. We witness every stage of the Program, from exercise, to nutrition, to bathroom habits. We watch Drew build himself up and tear everyone else down, including emotional confrontations with his father, Amber, and Chris.
Invincible Force has a cool sense of mystery lurking about. We're never given details about "The Program" other than the generic regiment explained to us by Drew. Big kudos to Ailes who totally committed himself to Schneidkraut's vision. There is a definite transformation unfolding onscreen. Whether or not he truly became a self-righteous dick will be between him and the cast and crew. The film is also powered by a great soundtrack, a mixture of strange and jarring ambient music, and unearthly death metal by Serberus and Maveth.
With this film, Mr. Schneidkraut may be wondering out loud why men choose to shape themselves into formidable tanks without developing the skilled brains to drive them. Are you willing to enter The Program to prove him wrong?
Bonus Points for the appearance of Driller Killer!
Invincible Force Trailer