The Invisible Man has proven yet another success for Blumhouse, bringing H. G. Wells’ classic novel to the screen with a fresh new take, and also tackling the timely issue of abusive relationships. One of the most uniquely unsettling aspects of The Invisible Man is how it tackles the subject of abuse, something that, apart from the central premise, it does with shocking realism.
For those who have yet to see the film, be forewarned. There will be some spoilers discussed in this article.
Passive Aggressive Behavior
Cecelia’s ordeal in the invisible man begins as most abusive relationships do. The signs are subtle. Cecelia finds herself under attack in a numble of subtle ways that at first she doesn’t attribute to her ex. A fire starting in the kitchen or missplacing her portfolio prior to a job interview may not represent physical danger, but they are clear attacks on her. As in abuse, as the abuser often intends, they could easily be attributed to the victim.
Isolating the Victim
Another thing that Cecelia suffers is a gradual isolation from those who could help her. She’s drugged prior to a job interview, thereby cutting her off from her own career aspirations and a potential social safety net. After that, her ex proceeds to cut her off from friends, sending an angry email to Cecelia’s sister and assaulting the daughter of a man who was trying to protect her. Doing so cuts of Cecelia from two of her strongest supporters, and leaves her alone with her abuser. It’s around here that Adrian begins to represent a more direct physical threat.
These attacks also prepresent a certain cowadly nature of the villain. They are afraid to deal with Cecelia when she’s protected by her network, so they isolate her via a series of attacks each comitted in a very sadistic way. They send an email to the sister rather than directly addressing her, and violently strike a child while hiding behind a cloak of invisibility.
The first physical attack suffered by Cecelia is a drugging that causes her to fail a job interview. As with the passive aggressive behavior, this could easily be attributed to perhaps a mistake by Cecelia, but it does represent a clear pattern of escalation. What comes next is a campaign of fear and intimidation, with the abuser leaving a pill bottle used to drug him on a counter, and leaving his cell phone in the attick of Cecelia’s temporary home so she’ll know he’s been there. Such behavior is intended to control the victim and force them into submission. Cecelia’s response is to call out Adrian, housing him with paint and temporarily making him visible. This leads to the final and most devestating part of the abuse.
It’s at this point in the film that the unseen figure becomes violent. The first assault on Cecelia is a protracted fight in the kitchen, where he attacks her, punches and chokes her, and attempts to stab her with a large butcher’s knife. Afterwards, the violence only gets worse, and eventually culminates in the murder of someone Cecelia is close to. Cecelia is blamed for the murder and is subjected to more violence by her ex. The important thing to realize is how effective this campaign is. By this point in the story, Cecelia has not only been completely demoralized, but she’s also been cut off from her social safety net and discredited. When she tries to tell people about the abuse, no one believes her.
This may be one of the most clever things about the film, and at a glance, it doesn’t seem that way. When Cecelia says she’s being abused, no one believed her because of her story about Adrian being invisible. Taking that out of the equation, this is a story not unlike many who have tried to seek help in abusive relationships. They’re not believed, and the abuser is clever enough to cover their tracks by discrediting the victim where they can. In the end, Cecelia has only herself to rely on.
As the violence she’s suffering escalates, Cecelia eventually has no choice but to fight back. She does this by not only getting physical with her attacker but by exposing him. The invisible figure spends most of the movie wearing a suit designed to hide them. When she first fights back, Cecelia damages the suit, causing it to malfunction and temporarily make her attacker visible. Doing helps others to see Cecelia is telling the truth, which begins the first step in her finally taking back her agency. She’s believed, which gives her the power to fight back.
In order to thwart her attacker, Cecelia has to not hesitate to get physical herself, and she does. Instead of running, Cecelia takes a more proactive role and turns the tables on her attacker in many interesting ways. She uses the threat of self-harm to lure him into a trap and is even able to deduce some friends are in danger based on her assailant’s past behavior. In exposing her attacker to the world, Cecelia sends him on the run, which paves the way for her final victory. The film ends with a satisfying dose of poetic justice, where Cecelia is able to use the same tools her attacker used to torment her in order to vanquish him forever.
The Invisible Man is one of the best films dealing with abuse in recent memory, and that it uses its central premise to illustrate it is a stroke of brilliance. Abusers often hide behind cloaks of professionalism and courtesy to mask inner cruelty. Such tricks render them invisible to all but the most vigilant of people. While a horror film, The Invisible Man carries a message of hope to those living at the other end of a fist. The one hurting you may be indivisible, but you don’t have to be.
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