When you see in the description of a film that it is a dystopian, detective/horror story with vampires, presented in a single unedited shot, and from Iran, well, if you are a true film buff, you will feel the urge to watch it. “Invasion” definitely stays true to its description, but the film is even more extreme than that, since Shahram Mokri wrapped it in an art-house package that also defies the “normal” perception of time and space. Let us take things from the beginning though.
Evidently, writing a synopsis about a film like this is not the easiest thing to do. The central point, however, is that a body has been found in a stadium where a sport that is never revealed in the film is taking place. The police has already determined the culprit, and has come to the stadium to ask (order actually) the coach and the tattooed members of the team to reconstruct the events of the day the crime took place. However, some of the members of the team see this as an opportunity to commit more murders, while it is soon revealed that Saman, the victim, was something of a mentor/leader of the group. At one point, his twin sister appears in the stadium and starts having a rather active role in the whole procedure, while a number of secrets are revealed. Confused? Wait until you watch the film.
Mokri directs a movie that despite its base, genre premise, unfolds in a rather experimental way, particularly for the way he manages to include flashbacks and the presentation of the actual story through different perspectives and points of focus, in a single-shot movie. This last element gives the film a rather theatrical essence, since the story unfolds in a fashion similar to a stage play. However, the main element here is definitely disorientation, with Mokri using both the rather complicated (confusing one could say) narrative and the general visual style of the film to achieve this result. The foggy, filled with smoke corridors of the labyrinthal stadium is the main aspect of this second element, with the repetition of the same events with slight changes, of the first. At the same time, there is much symbolism here, particularly in the presentation of the cycle of life, although I have to admit Mokri walks in paths I do not fully comprehend in that regard, such as Zoroastrianism (as my friend Marco mentioned).
In general, and although the story is quite intriguing, with a number of interesting plot twists, it becomes evident that Mokri did not want to focus on the story, but rather on the concepts of past and present, reality and nightmare, and identity, with the whole concept of the twin sister stressing the last aspect. In that fashion, the question whether Saman and his sister are vampires, the concept of the “other side”, the motives of the culprits, and even the sport the protagonists do, are just pretexts, with the visual approach taking center stage.
What carries the movie for the most part, despite its complex premises, is its rhythm, which is implemented both by Alireza Barazandeh’s cinematography and by the general “choreography” which is implemented rather nicely by the cast. And mentioning the acting, I could easily say that Abed Abest as Ali (the protagonist in essence) and Elaheh Bakhshi as Saman and his sister give great performances in radically different roles, with the former portraying an anxious, filled-with-inner-struggle man and the second two characters that seem sure of themselves and their ability to control the people around them.
Add to all the above some comments regarding “authority” and police conduct in general, some scenes of violence (although mostly implied) and you have the backbone of this intensely strange spectacle. “Invasion” is definitely a hard movie to watch but at the same time, I can easily say, that for its originality only, it definitely deserves a look. Truth be told, however, almost half a day after I watched the film, I am still perplexed about its quality