Cast: Max Mauff, Alice Dwyer, Ruby O. Fee, Aaron Altaras
Director: Claus Rafle
Is there really such a thing as a bad documentary? Unless your subject matter isn’t particularly interesting or if you just completely misrepresent your argument (looking at you Dinesh D’Souza), there’s no reason why you can’t create an enticing documentary. In the case of The Invisibles, Rafle takes an interesting approach by combining archive footage and interviews with dramatic recreations of the events surrounding the main characters. While this idea doesn’t always pay off, the interesting attempt to combine the events of the past with the technology of the present make The Invisibles a unique and captivating documentary about a subject matter that we can always afford to learn more about.
The film takes place during the height of World War II in Germany as the Nazis have declared that Berlin is free of Jews. While the public may believe this to be true, secretly there are about 7000 Jews hiding throughout the city. The Invisibles takes the dramatic retelling of the struggles these people went through and combines it with the real-life interviews and testimonies of those who went through it. This idea really is at the forefront of what makes the film successful as well as where it comes up short. Having the real victims of this situation on film describing the fear, struggle, and strife that they went through during these terrible times really does help add context to the dramatization that we see for most of the 110 minute runtime. Historical context is always important for providing the most accurate depiction of the time and by having these interviews we get a first-hand source to describe how this time really played out. On top of that, having a true source to reference probably helped the actors embrace their role and do a better job than they would’ve without having these interviews and people to look back towards during the filming process. On the other end, the constant jumping between interviews and dramatic reenactments can be distracting at times and prevents the audience from getting fully in either side of the story. Combining this with the fact that there are technically four main characters, it’s hard to go from story to story and interview to dramatization in 110 minutes without losing a bit of the elements that make a movie like this special. When you have the subject matter from a movie like The Invisibles, it really would’ve worked better if they had chosen one route or the other. If they had went with the dramatic approach, they could’ve used the details from interviews to help build the plot and the surrounding world. If they went with a pure documentary approach, there’s tons of information about the time period where you can inform the audience while still keeping it personal with these four survivors. The Invisibles is still an informative and interesting movie, but it’s lack of commitment to picking a lane and sticking with it does more harm than good regardless of how creative this decision is.
Overall, The Invisibles is the type of movie I hope gets brought to high school history classes as it provides valuable context to a part of the Holocaust that maybe not too many people know about. Obviously with a subject like the Holocaust you can never learn too much as it helps us prevent it from happening in the future, but to look at the period from this lens helps us understand the severity of these peoples’ situation and just how fortunate we are to not be going through something like this today. Education is ultimately the only path to peace and by educating our students with an informative yet entertaining film like The Invisibles, one day we will find our true peace.
Overall Score: 6.5/10