The Invisible

2002, Movie, NR, 96 mins


Remade in 2007, also as THE INVISIBLE, Joel Bergval and Simon Sandquist's haunting adaptation of Mats Wahl's 2000 young-adult novel revolves around a high-school golden boy whose apparently perfect life is shattered when he runs afoul of a deeply troubled classmate and finds himself trapped in a hellish limbo between life and death.

To all appearances, high-school senior Niklas Ericcsen (Gustaf Skarsgard, son of actor Stellan Skarsgard) has everything: a mother (Li Bradhe) who adores him, a beautiful girlfriend (Jenny Ulving) and a bright future. He's a top student, doesn't drink or do drugs, and is both pragmatic — he has a lucrative little side gig writing term papers for lazy jocks — and compassionate; he regularly defends his plump, passive best friend, Peter (David Hagman), a born victim from a strict immigrant family, against bullies. But beneath the surface, Niklas is desperately unhappy, tired of living up to his widowed mother's expectations but too dutiful to openly defy her. On the eve of high-school graduation, Niklas has decided to bolt: While pretending to agree to study economics in Stockholm, he's secretly applied to a prestigious writing program in London and bought his plane ticket. He tells only Peter, and not until the day of his intended departure. And then everything goes wrong: Niklas' mother finds out and hits him with the mother lode of "how could you do this to me" guilt, while Peter, who's run afoul of troubled delinquent Annelie Tullgren (Tuva Novotny), tries to save himself a beating by saying Niklas tipped off the police to her thriving business in stolen goods. It was actually Annelie's older boyfriend, car thief Marcus (Pär Luttrop), but Peter doesn't know that and assumes Niklas is already en route to London and out of harm's way. Unfortunately, he's not: As the weeping Peter watches, Annelie and her bully boys (Francisco Sobrado, Joel Kinnaman) beat Nick within an inch of his life and then dump him in a ditch to die.

When Peter awakes the next day and finds himself invisible to family, friends and the police investigating his disappearance, he makes the reasonable assumption that he's a spirit. And to his horror, death is even more frustrating than life: "I'm the worst ghost in the world," he rages as Annie sullenly stonewalls the cops who rightly suspect she had something to do with whatever happened. "I can't do anything!" But it gradually dawns on him that things aren't so simple: His soul has come unmoored from his flesh, but he can't proceed to whatever the afterlife holds until his battered body lets go of the last glimmer of life. And if he's not dead, then perhaps he can be resuscitated. Nick's only hope is Annelie, who alone among the living seems to sense his presence and whom he's come to realize isn't quite the unrepentant, stone-cold sociopath she appears.

Unlike the Disney-financed remake, DEN OSYNLIGE is a thorny, heartrending story of bad choices and devastating consequence in which things don't work out for the conventional best. Skarsgard, who subsequently played a sadistic schoolboy in the Oscar-nominated ONDSKAN/EVIL (2003), is a convincingly conflicted Niklas and the film's bittersweet end is truly haunting leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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