Tag Archives: independent filmmakers

Invictus, Part Two: The Long and Winding Road

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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The Eyes

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.

The Wall

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.”

Go Forward

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.

Celebration by cast and crew, left to right: Delirious Hunter, Argus Hammer (partly obscured), Rob Tanguay, Brad Benton, Angie Rowntree, and Joeydotawr

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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!

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Invictus, Part One: The Rendezvous Point

by Rich Moreland, October 2018

Invictus is a film by Angie Rowntree and stars Delirious Hunter, Joeydotrawr, and Ava Mir-Ausziehen. Also appearing in speaking roles are Argus Hammer and Cat Belmont.

Spoiler Alert. This review reveals vital story elements that may influence viewers.

[Invictus is available online at Sssh.com. All photos included in this two-part review are likewise courtesy of Sssh.com.]

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Angie Rowntree is a noted feminist filmmaker whose stories are relevant to our times. Her directing talent is exceptional and her cast dedicated to producing an indie film suitable for mainstream viewers. Though Invictus doesn’t forget its adult film roots, it seldom dwells on them.

Jane and Paul

Invictus is a futuristic fantasy. The US has devolved into a chaotic dystopia and the few remaining freedom-loving souls (what we loosely would call “patriots”) are fighting to keep hope alive.

As the viewer joins the story, an authoritarian government has weaponized climate change, turning citizens into ‘wild people” who prey on one another for survival. But all is not lost. A mission to save a once multicultural collectivist America is on the time clock.

The opening credits roll and we get glimpses of the back story. A succession of quick news reports about the social issues of our time pass in review–the most important being climate change. Then everything suddenly falls silent as we hear, “signing off.”

We later learn this references the end of independent newscasts. Not surprising since the government is suppressing free speech.

The scene shifts to a solitary female figure with a backpack walking a lonely paved road. Passing a billboard that proclaims “climate change is real,” she comes upon an abandoned and disheveled house that offers momentary refuge. Note that her arrival is marked by four birds of prey circling in the sky.

In voice over, the hiker says, “It’s been nearly two weeks since I left Mount Weather.”

In fact, she is on a mission but her food and water are in short supply and she estimates making “the rendezvous point” is in doubt.

From here the narrative moves quickly. The woman is scientist Jane Darling (Delirious Hunter) and in the trashed dwelling she meets its squatter resident Paul Young (Joeydotrawr). He claims the building is not much but does have a “vibe” he humorously describes “post-apocalypse chic.”

Jane is unmoved by his levity and trusts no one. Her reaction is to defend herself and she is armed. This chick is not to be fooled with.

Pro-Government Thugs

Invictus has three major themes. The first emerges early: freedom of the press and the supposed rise of fake news.

Paul was an independent newscaster who avoided capture when “they” came to arrest everyone at the station, he tells Jane. He suggests that she may have seen his face on billboards and declares people now chase “fake news” which we tacitly understand is government-controlled propaganda.

Paul rolls an apple across the floor to Jane, an “Adam meets Eve” gesture that sets up the explicit love-making we see later. She’s skeptical that the fruit is real before a bite convinces her it is. Apparently, the delicious treat came from rumored farmable land up north, Paul declares, and wants to find out if such a place exists.

Having established the fake news theme, the narrative moves to its second and overriding message–climate change and how the nutty fundamentalists have abetted the earth’s destruction. On that note, there’s revenge of sorts at film’s end.

Jane warns Paul of “pro-government thugs” who are out to hunt down “people who aren’t patriotic” which brings up a question. Can a person be a patriot and criticize the government? The film lets the viewer decide.

In the meantime, Invictus’ story line is set. Jane and Paul decide to unite for the journey they must take: she to the rendezvous point, he to the land of the fruit. This introduces the central image of narrative: the road.

We will look at that in Part Two.

Survivors

There is one more element of importance in the film. From her backpack, Jane produces a flash drive that holds the key to an encrypted computer Ava, her colleague and friend, could not save when their offices were raided.

Jane is from the World Protection Agency, she tells Paul, and what is on the flash drive could save humanity. She and Ava plan to meet on her birthday in the field where they once admired a meteor shower together. The place has both an emotional and moral meaning for them.

In a broader sense, Invictus is a moral journey to save mankind. More simply, it’s the trek the flash drive must take. Jane and Paul are merely couriers, survivors navigating a “new apocalyptic world,” as Paul describes it, in which desolation and isolation are mankind’s enemies now.

Circumstance has brought them together. Both avoided arrest when their professional environments fell under assault. He wasn’t at the news studio and she was not at Mount Weather when the government raided both.

Now they are a new age Adam and Eve striving to regenerate civilization.

As the film progresses, their moxie is tested. The country has fallen into chaos: tribalism rules the countryside and the unlikely pair encounters violence on the road. Later in a fight over Jane’s backpack, Paul is stabbed. The attackers flee and his three-day recovery brings them closer.

Out of that, their personal visions and reveries lead to the film’s first two sex scenes, but more on that later.

A Comment on Filmmaking

Invictus is as much a tale steeped in symbolism as it is an adult film highlighting nudity and lovemaking. Because it is a rare combination of literary expression and art mixed with see-it-all sex, the film raises an important question.

Is it possible for an adult film created by industry directors and actors to become a Hollywood-worthy production? Does such an offering bridge the divide between two film worlds: pornography and mainstream?

To put the question another way, is Invictus part of an alternative genre created by independent filmmakers who believe uninhibited sexual expression is part of their storytelling and, by extension, the development of their characters?

Like Gone, an earlier award-winning Angie Rowntree film, Invictus does just that. What’s more, this production is also pro-woman and made by a feminist. But it takes a further step.

It also addresses an adult film audience that is often short-changed by the industry’s standard romantic comedies: couples. With Invictus, they get love in a turbulent world where fighting for a cause is preferable to a date night of fun and frivolity.

Finally, speaking of female power in a patriarchal world, Delirious Hunter’s character portrayal is the film’s driving force. Her acting skills are noteworthy and her sex scenes reveal a woman’s touch that compliments Angie Rowntree’s directing talent.

 

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All good filmmaking requires a team commitment . . .

And some fun along the way.

 

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Check out the trailer for Invictus. Bear in mind it is Not Safe for Work because of nudity and graphic sexual representation.

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