Film is about Delhi but could be about anywhere in India…
By Sunil Chauhan
BERLIN-BASED director Rahul Jain understands aesthetics.
As with his debut film ‘Machines’, ‘Invisible Demons’ is filled with memorable images.
A Hindu ceremony takes place in a river filled with foamy scum emptied from nearby factories.
Fumigators spray their chemicals eerily into a public garden. Cows try to eat plastic while a man rubbish-picking in isolation at the peak of a mountainous landfill suggests science fiction.
In between these gallery-ready images, Jain features street-level interviews with cab drivers, boatmen and school students.
Unifying these two main streams is footage from NDTV’s weather broadcaster, whose broadcasts Jain regularly relies on to give a sense of the gravity of the situation in Delhi, where pollution is a constant threat.
Delhi regularly ranks as one of the world’s most polluted cities, but it could be one of many Indian cities. But ‘Invisible Demons’ isn’t particularly interested in delivering a hard science-based verdict – Jain’s intermittent narration is more personal than objective.
He admits he is of the AC-dependent class. Others on the street are less lucky – one particularly memorable sequence follows a camera down the mouth of one of many coughing Delhi denizens into their blackened lungs.
There are times in ‘Invisible Demons’ where you want to hear from some authorities on environmental destruction to give the film some heft beyond its visual impact, to make the film a less slender experience, even if it is hard to refute what is clearly evident.
By its end, if you have an eco-conscience, you might be struggling to control your rage. Or you could take the more detached, conveniently sanguine position of one factory owner interviewed, who considers that whatever humanity does now will be of little consequence in 10,000 years, as nature will take its own course, and sweep the mistakes away to start again.
Some might ask why Asian can’t countries do the same as western nations before them (in terms of industrialisation).
Jain would likely argue that there has to be another way.
‘Invisible Demons’ doesn’t try to provide an answer as to what that might be, but does make the invisible painfully visible.
Acv rating:*** ½ (out of five)
70 minutes, expected to go on general release in the UK in 2022…
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