A&E » Film

No pain, no gain

"Invincible Force" didn't need a big budget to make a captivating film about a man's battle with himself. In fact, it didn't need a budget at all.
Actor Drew Ailes poses for a photo during his progression from "slovenly man-child to infallible Titan."
  • Photo courtesy Dan S.
July 13, 2011


“Invincible Force”

Where: The Trylon Microcinema, 3258 S. Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis

When: Thursday, July 14, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Cost: $8

To understand “Invincible Force,” the new independent film from local director Dan S.,  we must first acknowledge what it is not. It is not a big budget movie — no money was spent on the production. And it is absolutely not Mumblecore.

The genre that Dan S. calls “lazing filmmaking” and “hipster soap opera” is a recent film fad that is characterized by improvisation and ultra-low budget. Think “Cyrus” and “Hump Day.”

“We didn’t want to make something like that. We are only interested in ideas and technique,” Dan S. said. “So we thought it’d be really interesting to take some incredibly crummy equipment and stylize a movie that looked really interesting, instead of taking some nice equipment and making it look like shit.”

The movie, which was cowritten by Dan S. and Andrew Martin, is essentially a before-and-after, 90-day workout tape, but the camera rolls through the struggles in between. Actor Drew Ailes gives a truly chilling, understated performance in front of the VHS and 8 mm analog cameras as the man grappling with his own imperfections, physical and mental. Drew the actor had to endure the same grueling transformation from disheveled drunk to shredded titan that Drew the character does in the movie, which was shot over a 90-day period, during which Ailes shed 35 pounds.

With an overt sense of tragedy looming above Drew’s workout plan, the film treats fitness addiction like it would heroin addiction — a grim study of a man versus himself and his obsession.

“It’s the same mechanisms as a person who is destroying their body through an eating disorder,” Ailes said. “It’s the same exact thing except it’s coming from media and websites. You’re building yourself up instead of breaking yourself down. Literally.”

Dan S., a brawny weight lifter himself, said that working out can be equally destructive to your mind and your body.

“A lot of [working out] is about deluding yourself. And it’s about hyperbole. It’s like all this hyperbolic shit like ‘You’re the master of your domain!’”Dan S. said.

While, like Mumblecore, “Invincible Force” is rooted in a DIY philosophy — probably moreso (everything used in the movie was “found, borrowed or stolen”) — the difference is in the approach. Mumblecore is lax, allowing the actors to just “do their thing,” whereas “Invincible Force” is meticulously structured.

“We are interested in subtext, which are literary devices as old as time that people forget,” Dan S. said. “And there is a poetry in subtext and precise language. When you are improvising you lose a lot of that stuff.”

There is also subtext in the decision to spend zero dollars on the production. The film is shot with obsolete cameras, usually on a tripod, and they rarely leave the set of Dan’s apartment so as to not spend money on gas. While pragmatic, the choice was also symbolic of the film’s subject matter.

“The film is about the obsolescence of masculinity,” Dan S. said. “And I think using obsolete formats and what some people might consider obsolete storytelling methods like stationary shots functions is a metaphor of the obsolescence of [Drew] and his body image and his quest to become the ultimate übermensch warrior.”

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