Ah, domestic abuse and gaslighting. The weapons abusers use to mentally and physically manipulate and control their spouses. Some bruises you can see, most are so deeply ingrained in the victim’s mind that they cannot be seen and cannot be escaped from.
A cruel reminder of what abuse does to its victim is Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, a re-telling of H. G. Wells’s novel by the same name. The movie follows a woman named Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) who stages an elaborate escape plan to run away from the clutches of her abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Adrian is apparently a genius in the field of optics and has amassed a lot of wealth and power because of it. He is also a control-freak and micro-manages everything in Cecelia’s life – from what she wears to what she eats and how she dresses. Things like these grew into physical assault and Cecelia was trapped in a relationship from which she couldn’t escape. However, when all seemed to have worked in her favour, news comes to her that Adrian has committed suicide and has left his huge wealth to her. Although this news does shock her, she is relieved – Adrian can’t find her anymore and she can live her life how she wants to. But that is, unfortunately, far from reality. It soon becomes apparent to her that Adrian has found out a way to become invisible and he uses that power to alienate her from the people around her. The police also refuse to believe her. In such a situation, she takes matters in her own hands and decides to exact revenge.
First off, I’ll mention here that the ending was so satisfying. I know revenge is probably not the best thing to live your life for, but people who have been victims of abuse will tell you otherwise.
Abuse, abuse, and abuse
The nature of Adrian’s abuse is kept from the audience – we don’t ever exactly get to know what he actually did. It is, however, apparent in the way she stages the escape – all parts of it were well thought out for quite some time. In a scene which stuck with me – the dog’s collar. it was apparent how much Adrian liked controlling everything around him – the people and animals living with him were just objects to him that he could use whenever he wanted.
Cecelia’s campaign sends Adrian into a deranged, manipulative campaign against her. But before that, you kind of feel happy and put your guard down seeing how happy Cecelia feels hearing of Adrian’s death. She becomes carefree, has fun with her friends and even goes for a job interview. However, when she becomes unconscious there and later finds the bottle of Diazepam that she used on Adrian in her bathroom counter, her world comes crashing down. You can see the shift of her mood and her psyche. She is again pulled back into Adrian’s clutches. And the worst part is, as is with abuse situations in general, people refuse to believe her. I mean, I’d probably be a little skeptical is someone comes and tells me that someone is invisible, but that’s not the point. There’s a deeper meaning here – how abuse victims are usually suspected and questioned. How people ask them whether they are sure if they are overreacting because he seems to be “such a nice guy”.
Belief and Doubt
As I previously said, the cycle of abuse does not just stop with abusers. When people decide to come out with their stories, they are shunned by the society saying that they are overreacting, “is it that time of the month?”, she’s lying, she’s insane. These comments and judgments are routine – abuse victims are routinely questioned and harassed and made to go back to the darkest time of their lives because society loves to believe men. That is very nicely portrayed in the movie – Cecelia is put in a hospital to receive psychiatric help because no one wants to even entertain the possibility of what she is saying. It is also important to see here what technological advancements can do and how they can harm people if it is allowed to grow unhindered.
The invisibility angle is also a smart one, in the context. Men abuse because society allows them to – they either turn a blind eye to them or worse, facilitate the abuse. Men don’t really need to literally vanish in order to perpetuate heinous gender-based crimes. An absence of scrutiny is also a form of disappearance – if you aren’t looking at someone, they just might as well be invisible. And that is scary and, sadly, the reality for a lot of women. Because it’s not just them they are fighting against, it’s all the men and women who helped, stayed silent or looked the other way – it’s the society in general.
In The Invisible Man, Cecelia is haunted not only by Adrian – his brother, Tom, is an equal accomplice. He is Adrian’s brother and his lawyer. According to Cecelia, he is an exact copy of Adrian, just without the spine. Tom is a constant reminder of his brother – he tells him that he is also a victim of his brother, comforts her and tells her that Adrian is dead and that all of this is in her head. However, this, we get to know is all a lie. Tom is as much a part of Adrian’s sick plans as Adrian is. He is also a manipulator like his brother.
The Invisible Man reminds us that men like Adrian are everywhere – they are powerful and rich and feel invincible because we make them feel so. They win time and again because society loves to cherish rich and powerful men and this gives them the power to control and abuse others. They feel concealed and protected because that is exactly what society gives them.
The biggest problem probably as to why we turn a blind eye to these people is because the monster still hasn’t reached us… yet.