The Belgian movie The Invader (L’envahisseur) is an interesting movie. Cleverly, it attains an amazing balance between being a clear and straightforward story about an illegal African immigrant in Brussels, and being a highly symbolical art movie of surprising depth.
It begins as a small group of Africans washes ashore on what is presumably the French riviera. It’s a nude beach, which makes for an appropriately rude awakening for both the audience and the exhausted Africans – and also the beach patrons.
The Africans (it is not specified just where they’re from) arrive in Brussels, where they have to work for a sleazy gangster boss to pay back the cost of their journey and their false papers. The protagonist is Amadou, whose friend Siaka is very sick. The gangster boss says he can’t have a sick man lying around doing nothing (and being illegals, they can’t call a doctor), and when Amadou returns from work a few days later, Siaka is gone. Amadou then smashes the gangster boss’ expensive car and goes out on his own, trying to get by in Brussels with absolutely no money, no friends, no nothing.
Fortunately, though, he speaks French, and by keeping his cool and acting very intelligently, he more or less succeeds in ingratiating himself with an attractive wealthy woman, Agnes de Yael, who’s married to some slightly anemic university professor. They have a short affair, and it seems Amadou falls in love with her. She rejects him, but he tries very persistently to get back into her favor.
Amadou’s luck changes several times, and he returns to the gangster boss’ lair more than once, first for supplies, and then to exact his righteous revenge for the death of his friend. Between such climaxes, he wanders the streets day and night, awaiting opportunities. Some of these scenes are very long and slow – but meaningful. The ending is ambivalent – maybe Amadou’s project succeeds, or maybe he’s just dreaming it. It’s up to the audience to decide.
Or rather, when you look at the symbolism, it’s up to future history to decide. The non-literal dimension of the movie is about the global class struggle and how it develops historically. The illegal immigrants are the working class, the gangster boss is the capitalist robber barons and the beautiful wife of the academic is the luxurious happiness that all people desire, also symbolising a post-capitalist society of humanitarian harmony. History is the account of how the lower classes gradually encroah on the upper classes, fighting for democratic influence, welfare and human rights, and crawling ever closer to a state of equality for all; a state of classlessness. These developments are perfectly and admirably simply chronicled in this movie, with the slow scenes signifying the long historical wait between social upheavals that periodically change the social order in favour of a more progressive set of circumstances.
A fine achievement indeed.
The wealthy woman, Agnes de Yael, is played by Stefania Rocca, who seemed very familiar to me. It turns out I have seen her three times before, in the Christopher Lambert sci-fi b-movie Nirvana (1997), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000). A beautiful and talented lady.
Director: Nicolas Provost
Cast: Isaka Sawadogo, Stefania Rocca, John Flanders, Ken Kelountang Ndiaye and others.
Runtime: 89 min.