Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023)
August 22, 2023 7:25 PM - Subscribe

Landscape with Invisible Hand takes us to the year 2036, five years after humans had their first contact with aliens. It didn't take long before humans gave up and accepted their fate at the hands of the new invading race, allowing the Vuvv aliens species to control everything from our economy to our schools. While there are some humans that live in cities that fly overhead, most humans are left back on earth, struggling to survive under this new leadership, as jobs and resources are scarce. (Collider) (CW: There's a suicide by handgun early in the movie. You hear it, see blood on a wall, and see a body lying on the ground)

Directed by Cory Finley, based on the 2017 YA novel of the same name by M. T. Anderson. The film stars Asante Blackk, Kylie Rogers, and Tiffany Haddish.

Some of Finley’s tweaks and twists stand out, especially how some characters wallow and even weaponize their financial distress as a self-soothing coping strategy. Unfortunately, “Landscape with Invisible Hand” still relies too much on basic and by-now trite ideas about making money and staying human under otherwise degrading living conditions. Finley’s E.T.s are clearly meant to reveal how small and/or resilient humanity can be when faced with even fewer ways to survive, but they ultimately seem more like a fanciful plot device than a thoughtful extension of the world outside the movie theater.

Subjugation is the film’s key theme. Just how much of your dignity, power and just human decency are you willing to let give up? Swap out the aliens for any imperialistic society of ages past — or present — and you’ll find that these questions feel all too relevant.

“Landscape With Invisible Hand” is profound. You’ll probably feel uncomfortable with the many questions it raises. Not to mention, the Vuvv are just weird. But that’s the point. And just maybe, their behavior isn't so alien after all.

Landscape with Invisible Hand is the sort of conceptual club sandwich that you’ll only find in an indie film based on a cult novel. (Imagine a major studio executive parsing this pitch, let alone greenlighting it.) There’s a lot to digest here, beyond its obvious allegory about self-righteous rich countries fetishizing, appropriating, and ultimately destroying foreign cultures via predatory business practices. The film also takes aim at the industry of social media influencers, and not from the usual angle of “These self-obsessed, do-nothing kids!” More than any other film I’ve seen, Landscape captures the modern drive to turn one’s entire life into “content” in order to compete in the modern market. As more and more jobs and opportunities are eliminated through automation and corporate consolidation, young people scramble to leverage the only thing they have that might not be replaceable by a machine — their very humanity. In the film’s world, packaging one’s life as entertainment is actually one of the more glamorous and dignified ways that a human might debase themselves to better appeal to the ruling class, and the grim alternatives will be equally familiar.
posted by Gorgik (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Asante Blackk was the standout in this for me. It felt similar in some ways to "Sorry to Bother You", with themes about race, class and capitalism. I am also a sucker for aliens that are, well, alien, at least, more than a prosthetic mask, and I thought these were pretty interesting.
posted by Gorgik at 9:51 PM on August 22, 2023

Don't be evil.
posted by flabdablet at 7:55 AM on December 28, 2023

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