Invincible Force

By Ezra Stead

Invincible Force, USA, 2011

Directed by Daniel Schneidkraut

Invincible Force indicts our modern society's empty worship of physical perfection without preaching or pandering to its audience. To my knowledge, Daniel Schneidkraut’s second feature, Invincible Force, must be the only film ever to have this unique amalgamation of genres attached to its IMDb page: documentary, drama, horror. All of these descriptions are accurate to some degree, and to them I would personally have to add comedy, though it is certainly comedy of the very darkest variety. Schneidkraut’s previous film, Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements, could also be described in much the same way, though it lacks the distinction of any true documentary trappings and is, in fact, a collection of short films tied together by a common thread of suffering. In this way, Invincible Force could be seen as Schneidkraut’s feature film debut, and what a bracingly unique debut it is. 

The film’s production alone deserves some ink for its unusual approach. Boasting a budget of exactly zero dollars, Schneidkraut (credited only as Dan S. in the film’s titles) filmed the project over the course of 90 days, “using only outdated technology that was found, borrowed, or stolen.” In addition, lead actor Drew Ailes actually undertook a rigid fitness regimen that lowered his body mass index from .27 to .085, and caused him to lose 35 pounds over the course of the three-month shoot. Though every scene in the film “is meticulously scripted, with not a word or action improvised,” this approach to the filmmaking lends it an uncomfortable feeling of reality, as though it were truly a found video diary of a man’s descent into madness.

Ailes stars as Drew, a paunchy metal-head in his early thirties who has decided to undergo an extreme fitness regimen in order to gain the power and discipline he feels is lacking in his life. At the film’s beginning, he seems relatively happy and comfortable, living with his longtime girlfriend, Amber (Anissa Siobhan Brazill), and regularly hanging out with fellow heavy music enthusiast Chris (Chris Bakke). However, something is clearly wrong with Drew’s interior life, and as he commits himself to his fitness program, all other concerns begin to fall by the wayside, as he ignores calls from his Dad (Paul Reyburn) and begins to alienate Amber and Chris. The film’s dark humor begins to show itself in an inspired scene in which Drew and Amber make love, and Drew begins counting his thrusts as though they were reps in a weight-lifting session.

Though this scene is undeniably funny, and there are many other moments that are as well, the single-mindedness with which Drew pursues his goal of slimming down and making himself more powerful and attractive is also extremely haunting. The slow, steady pace and relatively long running time of the film combine to make it a hypnotic experience, inextricably drawing the viewer into Drew’s disturbed existence by degrees as all other aspects of his life gradually give way to his obsessive transformation. By the time he reaches his darkly comic, unforgettably disgusting nadir, Ailes is practically unrecognizable. Schneidkraut’s filmmaking complements his performance with an equal commitment to austerity, making this the ultimate “anti-mumblecore” film they reportedly set out to make. It is a film that indicts our modern society’s empty worship of physical perfection without preaching or pandering to its audience, instead opting for a humorous touch and a deep, authentic character study of its protagonist.

Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’ Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper and poet who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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