Tuesday , May 21 2024
The Invisible Fight

Fantastic Fest Film Review: ‘The Invisible Fight’ – Kung Fu with Many Storytelling Punches

Like many films that show at Fantastic Fest, kung-fu comedy The Invisible Fight is full of surprises. It was not at all what I expected.

Fantastic Fest ran September 21–28, at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, Texas. The largest genre film festival in the U.S., Fantastic Fest specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and unusual films from all around the world.

The Invisible Fight

The Invisible Fight centers around Rafeal, a Soviet soldier in the 1970s, played by Ursel Tilk. His unit, guarding the border with China, is attacked by three martial artists who kill everyone but him. A dying comrade tells him “God must have a plan for you.” Rafeal returns home and decides to learn kung fu.

Sounds serious. In one way it is. But it is also Jackie Chan meets Benny Hill with a little Sergei Eisenstein thrown in.

Seriously Funny

The film examines Rafeal’s struggle to connect with his true inner self and find a purpose in life. Is he a heavy-metal cool guy or should he become a monk? Neither of those alternatives was looked upon kindly by the Communist government, with whom he eventually has a run-in.

None of that sounds funny. But add in over-the-top kung fu movie action, like fighters making ridiculous and impossible leaps through the air, and characters running around at accelerated video rates as in Benny Hill, and it starts to get crazy.

The Invisible Fight
Kung fu in an Orthodox monastery is the setting for The Invisible Fight.

And where does Rafeal go to learn Kung Fu? An Orthodox monastery, of course.

Just Serious

Within the crazy action, however, some serious issues get examined.

Rafeal meets a girl named Rita at a dance. Sexual tension immediately boils up. Her boyfriend is not amused and two guys kung fu-ing around again take center stage.

The Invisible Fight
Estonian actress Ester Kuntu

Rita (Ester Kuntu), like Rafeal, needs direction in her life, and their paths cross multiple times. This story ties into broader questions about the relationship of men and women and what is love.

In the monastery, Rafeal meets Irinei, who receives an assignment to be Rafeal’s mentor. That mentorship turns into competition as the head monk struggles with whether Rafeal or Irinei should be his successor. Deeper questions come up as both Rafeal and Irinei struggle with issues about hypocrisy and man’s relationship to God.

Rafeal also receives directions from the head monk to check with his mother before leaving her behind to become a monk. She already feels abandoned by her dead husband and sees Rafeal’s joining the priesthood as yet another abandonment.

Also, Rafeal’s car doesn’t work well and breaks down regularly. Well, there’s always rock-and-roll.

The Film

The film, produced in Estonia, Latvia, Greece, and Finland, uses English subtitles. It is scheduled to be released in December 2023. Fantastic Fest was the film’s fourth festival showing and its North American premiere. Writer/director Rainer Sarnet discusses his inspirations for the film in the video below.

For the latest Fantastic Fest developments, visit its website and follow the fest on Instagram, Facebook, and X/Twitter.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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