No pain, no gain

“Invincible Force” didn’t need a big budget to make a captivating film about a man’s battle with himself. In fact, it didn’t need a budget at all.

Actor Drew Ailes poses for a photo during his progression from

Actor Drew Ailes poses for a photo during his progression from “slovenly man-child to infallible Titan.”

Mark Brenden


âÄúInvincible ForceâÄù

Where: The Trylon Microcinema, 3258 S. Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis

When: Thursday, July 14, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Cost: $8

To understand âÄúInvincible Force,âÄù the new independent film from local director Dan S.,  we must first acknowledge what it is not. It is not a big budget movie âÄî no money was spent on the production. And it is absolutely not Mumblecore.

The genre that Dan S. calls âÄúlazing filmmakingâÄù and âÄúhipster soap operaâÄù is a recent film fad that is characterized by improvisation and ultra-low budget. Think âÄúCyrusâÄù and âÄúHump Day.âÄù

âÄúWe didnâÄôt want to make something like that. We are only interested in ideas and technique,âÄù Dan S. said. âÄúSo we thought itâÄôd be really interesting to take some incredibly crummy equipment and stylize a movie that looked really interesting, instead of taking some nice equipment and making it look like shit.âÄù

The movie, which was cowritten by Dan S. and Andrew Martin, is essentially a before-and-after, 90-day workout tape, but the camera rolls through the struggles in between. Actor Drew Ailes gives a truly chilling, understated performance in front of the VHS and 8 mm analog cameras as the man grappling with his own imperfections, physical and mental. Drew the actor had to endure the same grueling transformation from disheveled drunk to shredded titan that Drew the character does in the movie, which was shot over a 90-day period, during which Ailes shed 35 pounds.

With an overt sense of tragedy looming above DrewâÄôs workout plan, the film treats fitness addiction like it would heroin addiction âÄî a grim study of a man versus himself and his obsession.

âÄúItâÄôs the same mechanisms as a person who is destroying their body through an eating disorder,âÄù Ailes said. âÄúItâÄôs the same exact thing except itâÄôs coming from media and websites. YouâÄôre building yourself up instead of breaking yourself down. Literally.âÄù

Dan S., a brawny weight lifter himself, said that working out can be equally destructive to your mind and your body.

âÄúA lot of [working out] is about deluding yourself. And itâÄôs about hyperbole. ItâÄôs like all this hyperbolic shit like âÄòYouâÄôre the master of your domain!âÄôâÄùDan S. said.

While, like Mumblecore, âÄúInvincible ForceâÄù is rooted in a DIY philosophy âÄî probably moreso (everything used in the movie was âÄúfound, borrowed or stolenâÄù) âÄî the difference is in the approach. Mumblecore is lax, allowing the actors to just âÄúdo their thing,âÄù whereas âÄúInvincible ForceâÄù is meticulously structured.

âÄúWe are interested in subtext, which are literary devices as old as time that people forget,âÄù Dan S. said. âÄúAnd there is a poetry in subtext and precise language. When you are improvising you lose a lot of that stuff.âÄù

There is also subtext in the decision to spend zero dollars on the production. The film is shot with obsolete cameras, usually on a tripod, and they rarely leave the set of DanâÄôs apartment so as to not spend money on gas. While pragmatic, the choice was also symbolic of the filmâÄôs subject matter.

âÄúThe film is about the obsolescence of masculinity,âÄù Dan S. said. âÄúAnd I think using obsolete formats and what some people might consider obsolete storytelling methods like stationary shots functions is a metaphor of the obsolescence of [Drew] and his body image and his quest to become the ultimate übermensch warrior.âÄù