The Invisible Life

Dir: Vitor Goncalves

United Kingdom (UK) / Portugal


99 mins



Filipe Duarte, João Perry, Maria João Pinho

Hugo, a man on the cusp of middle age is in the grip of an unshakeable torpor, squandering his life away. Facing the impending death of his friend and professional mentor Antonio, he realises something must change.

Existing somewhere between the existential horror of Bergman and absurdist literary dread of Kafka, The Invisible Life explores how Hugo’s past smothers his ability to imagine and create a future for himself.

Beautifully shot and steeped in darkness, the film conjures an uncanny atmosphere as Hugo, his dying friend and ex-lover Adriana confront his inability to navigate the modern world. Hugo prefers to work alone at night in the cavernous offices of the civil service. His colleagues make him anxious and he has the social skills of a hermit. Hugo’s office, in the heart of Lisbon, looks out over a city in constant flux. Ironically, redevelopment and change appear to be the lifeblood of Hugo’s profession as a city engineer.

Yet Hugo himself has lived for so long in the comfort of Antonio’s shadow that he has become incapable of making a decision on his own and taking agency over his own life. Hugo is a man terrified by change and unsure why. He lives in the house of his dead parents, unable to use the rooms in which they lived, choosing instead to mothball them as a shrine to an airless past.

Equally his relationship with Adriana, the love of his life, has stalled too. Frustrated with Hugo’s inertia Adriana has given him an ultimatum – to move out of his family home and in with her, or forever remain alone in the shadows of memory.

Hugo can see that he needs to change and take control of his own destiny but finding the strength to do so is quite another matter.

Gonçalves, whose previous film A Girl in Summer is considered a touchstone in Portuguese national cinema, has returned to the world after a 25 year hiatus from filmmaking with a tender, contemplative and haunting wonder.

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