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  • Invisible Demons: Director Rahul Jain on his hypnotic portrait of pollution


Invisible Demons: Director Rahul Jain on his hypnotic portrait of pollution

As Invisible Demons enjoys its Berlin debut we caught up with its Director Rahul Jain to discuss this powerful climate change call to arms.

Still from Invisible Demons. Photo: Mubi

I read in an interview that you connected getting sick with pollution levels. You’ve just mentioned suffering from allergies. Did these factors influence the conception of the film? 

Yes, it definitely had an effect and was an impetus for the film. The effect that pollution has had on my health has been significant. 

Do you feel it’s important to connect personally to the subject matter you’re working on? 

Yes, for me, it’s absolutely fundamental to be able to find a way to represent the things that literally or metaphorically move me. And in this case, it’s happened extremely viscerally. 

The film is graphic in its portrayal of climate change. Do you feel that film can be an impetus for political change?

Absolutely. Some days I struggle to see how one person can do this through art but it’s worth trying. It’s a difficult prospect to conceive despite all the success the film may get.  Every time I’ve been present at the screening of Invisible Demons, I can see that people are literally affected. And that lets me know that hopefully there might be some purpose to what I do. 

There’s a hypnotic pacing to the film in its edit and camerawork – was this an important aspect of the film in pre-production or did it find its visual voice after the shoot? 

The rhythm of the film was crafted on the editing table. But the visual schema was conceived of with my cinematographer beforehand through us deciding the locations. I thought of it like a jigsaw. Pacing was important as it’s rare that I see a piece of moving image that is not rushing you or forcing you to feel something. 

It’s a haunting film, one of its powerful factors being that the imagery is horrific as well as stunning. 

I hope for the work to take effect like this and I’m really glad that it still happens because I feel like I might never have objective thinking about it. We are living in times of oversaturation of stimuli and data. I’ve been accused of beautifying a difficult topic, but I almost take that accusation as a compliment. I think beauty can be used to seduce and trap. Beauty makes it difficult to look away. And I do not want the viewer to look away.

How did you get into filmmaking? 

Films used to hijack my imagination for weeks or months at a time, from the age of eight. And I didn’t question why. I just thought it was normal and natural and that everybody had that experience. It took me a while to realise I might be different. And then as a hobby around that time, it gained a lot of traction and space on the internet. I could find a lot of good movies from the past and connect with like-minded people online about them. I found that liberating and that inspired me to pursue studying it. 

It seems like you’re having a well-deserved moment right now, what have you got planned next?

I literally want to bask in storytelling. I want to create stories that connect the world the way it is, but that also go in different places in terms of how it could potentially be dealing with that.

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