by Rich Moreland, October 2018
In this post, we’ll take a look at Invictus’ visual appeal. In particular, what are the images that best communicate the film’s collective focus? And, how do the sex scenes reinforce the narrative?
Spoiler Alert. This review reveals vital story elements that may influence viewers.
If you wish to see Invictus for you own take on the film, it is available online at Sssh.com.
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As mentioned earlier, one of Invictus’ most important images is evident in the opening scene. Jane passes a deteriorating billboard that has weeping eyes. In faded colors it proclaims that “climate change is real,” setting the tone for a narrative that challenges climate change deniers and fake news believers.
Invictus’ roadside advertisement is similar to the symbolism found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In that tale of misplaced love, a billboard with the eyes of Dr. T.J. Ekleberg lord over the industrialized segment of New York City (the “valley of the ashes”) that separates the lower classes from the moneyed elitists.
Both stories employ the billboard symbol to comment on America’s moral decline. We need only look at the eyes to see.
But there is more. In Invictus, the woods are filled with eyes, those of human creatures who struggle to hold on to their humanity. And don’t forget there is a particular set of eyes belonging to a mysterious man who watches Jane from afar, following her every step.
In this film, the eyes have it, so to speak, both figuratively and literally.
An Abandoned Pathway
Invictus’ other prominent image is the long and winding road–if we may borrow a musical/literary phrase–that runs through the entire film. The pathway is abandoned, reflecting the landscape that has become Jane and Paul’s milieu.
As their journey progresses, they also follow railroad tracks as derelict as the roads they walk. With their once fast-moving trains, the rails suggest the sense of urgency that pounds away at the story.
Upon reaching an urban area, the couple moves through streets of desolation and destruction. Leaving the city, they follow a broadened highway before reaching an airport runway. On it is a wrecked plane.
All along their trek, the carcasses of broken vehicles—cars, buses, planes—remind the viewer of civilization’s destruction. What once was filled with vitality is no more. What once ran full speed is now dead.
Incidentally, most of the roadway shots are taken from high above the walking figures, emphasizing their loneliness and isolation.
In fact, height is important in the film and presents its final image. Rising above the misery of this post-apocalyptic world, a helicopter keeps the story’s metaphorical promise.
One more point is worth a mention. Like a Grimm fairy tale, the woods are always present to stoke our primal fear of the unknown. Notice, for example, Jane and Ava agree to reunite in an open field away from the hidden “wild people” who infest the wilderness.
Despite ever-present danger, we can’t forget that our travelers are seeking Invictus’ Land of Oz (the fruit-laden north). We are reassured that there is a yellow brick road, no matter its form, to all destinations of peace and plenty.
But peril always lurks a mere misstep away. Even Dorothy and her trio of friends in L. Frank Baum’s tale never knew exactly what or who was in the woods along the way.
Outside the city, Jane and Paul come to a wall that symbolizes much of what this film is about.
Graffiti proclaiming “Art Prevails” is painted near another illustration, the silhouette of a strong man with a hammer. He has created a “hole” (or portal) in the barrier that reveals a footbridge across a body of water.
Is this the route to the North and the Land of Fruit and Happiness? Or does it have a more literal meaning? To reclaim a lost America, we require bridges, not walls.
Is the muscular hammer attacking ideological bulwarks that seal off protest and freedom of speech, something Invictus implies the government has taken away? Does the film assure the viewer that when much seems lost, art is a beacon that penetrates the darkness?
As we’ve mentioned above, Jane and Paul enter the city and walk among abandoned buildings that suggest a community destroyed by riots or a Chernobyl-like disaster.
The scene is a reminder of catastrophe and our travelers do not linger because revisiting the past holds no future in this emerging Distopia.
In This Together
As we have seen, the helicopter reminds us that the quickest way forward lies not on ruined roads but in soaring above the chaos to a new place and a new way.
Of note is this. Remember the four circling birds of prey we first see when Jane reaches the house where Paul is in hiding? Their vision was earth-ward waiting to feast on death, i.e. the past.
On the other hand, in the final scene the helicopter lifts upward, transcending destruction in pursuit of rebirth.
Finally, the voices of director Angie Rowntree, Delirious Hunter, Ava Mir-Ausziehen, and Joeydotrawr close the film. They start and finish sentences for each other in a “we’re all in this together” moment.
Here is the centrality of their message.
If we stand together and fight for each other, there is hope.
“Those who would pit us against one another . . . talk of making life great again . . . But greatness can’t be driven by fear.”
The film comes full circle with, “The only answer to divisiveness is unity. The only response to hate is love.”
Produced by the woman-friendly website Sssh.com, Invictus is an adult film. But it differs from typical porn fare.
On-screen sex is employed in three scenes with the intent of exploring human passion. Beyond that, the sex is vital to understanding the narrative and is no way gratuitous to the story. We learn quite a bit about the characters when we see them intimately engaged with each other, no holds barred.
Director Angie Rowntree makes one thing clear in these scenes. She wants her characters to “go forward” in their development especially if it means revisiting past events. We see this when Jane spends moments of reverie about her intimate relationship with Ava.
In the first sex scene, they are shown making love with a strong emphasis on gentle kissing and passionate bodies in motion.
Later, when Paul guesses Ave and Jane were once lovers (she affirms his comment when she tells him they met before same-sex relationships were a crime), he delivers the film’s central theme.
During his feverish sleep, Paul dreams of the past when all was normal. But he knows returning to that is impossible because it’s nothing more than an imaginative realm of what once was.
They need to go forward to something better. Jane acquiesces to his thought and in the process draws closer to him.
But what to do with remembrances of Ava?
From Fantasy to Reality
As previously mentioned, the first sex scene with Ava and Jane is a memory, a look backward. The second sex scene is Paul’s fever-induced vision when he is asleep. It departs from Jane’s reverie because it affirms Paul’s notion of what can be, not what was. Things are no longer “normal.”
The sex is graphic, of course, and woman-friendly. There’s male-on-female oral, caressing, and the standard positions found in porn.
Delirious Hunter makes each sex scene special. She is a rough-and-ready porn girl who can shoot with the best. In particular, her modeling resume of BDSM and gangbang scenes are bold and raw.
On the other hand, the sex in Invictus paints a different picture by transcending porn’s sameness and venturing into art. Delirious is up to the task with sensuality galore.
Because she and Joey are lovers responding to each other, Delirious sets just the right romantic tone to make it all work. Close-ups of her face and Joey’s capture the on-screen ecstasy and energy they draw from each other. Their lovemaking drives the film and reinforces the story of Jane and Paul.
That is noteworthy, by the way, because in real life Delirious and Joey are married. The sex is as authentic as it can get, one of the hallmarks of female-friendly porn.
The conflict of past and present and where to go from here is clearly the theme of Invictus’ sex scenes. Referencing the new film genre mentioned in Part One of this review, Angie Rowntree establishes a purpose for the Jane/Ava and Jane/Paul encounters, something not widely found in porn.
In other words, the sex itself is an image in the narrative.
Finally, the third sex scene is fantasy that becomes reality. The couple relaxes on a blanket, Jane eagerly discards her clothes and the intimacy happens because she chooses to make it so. It’s a feminist statement.
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Angie Rowntree has proven once again that an adult film deserves mainstream accolades. Like its predecessor, Gone, Invictus presents a solid script and an engaging story. The sex is never thrown in as a promise to the viewer. Rather it is a tool within the narrative that helps to clarify the interpersonal actions that move the story forward.
The characters define themselves with their sexuality and their sexual expression. Ava and Jane are lovers as are Paul and Jane. The question becomes, can Jane simultaneously exist in both relationships?
Possibly. Take a look at the final scenes and reach your own conclusion.
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A completed project is always a call for an all-for-one moment.
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Here is the trailer for Invictus. It’s Not Safe for Work because of graphic content. But if you’re not offended, please take a look!