Directed by Jing Wang

Crime, 89′

‘Invisible Killer’ is not actually categorised as a traditional heart-attack thriller. In fact, as a film with elements of killing, murder, and dead body, Lin Yan, the victim, is not a good enough reason to attract the viewer to watching the film guessing who the killer is. Budgeted as a small-production film, it did not achieve suspension using the usual dramatic effects when all the clues that support the audience’s expectation suddenly point to a different thing. The ending is rather within the expectation: pale, simple and easily-predicted. What lies behind the story, however, is the sharp discussion on the sociological perspective of the function of Internet, as well as its enlargement in the contemporary society.

The ideology behind the film lies upon the concept that as part of the modern society, people more or less have to rely on the Internet, which as a product of science and mass-communication, enlarges the public sphere to a maximum through a reflection as to what is today perceived as ‘the crowds’. Especially in the context of China, Internet has been considered as a channel of expressing free opinions under strict censorship and thus China, a country with thousands of years of ruling system of feudalism, has its enthusiasm seeing Internet as an improved method of achieving a future democracy.

In the film, Lin Yan is a morally wrong wife lingering between two men. She is obsessed with Internet games and she begins a short-term affair with the ‘game administrator’ Gao Fei, while gradually drifting away from her husband, Cheng Tao. The advanced online searching system allows Internet users to find any information on anybody they want within a short time scale. Internet takes the responsibility of supervision of the society as a critical-rational censorship, whilst at the same time it presents the question of legitimacy and where it stands.

This becomes a key question in the film and the concern over the grey area of rationality and relationship with law. There is always a contradiction between the constitution of law and morality: to an extent we need to question who exactly killed Lin Yan. The overwhelming search on the Internet forums and web reports discovered the scandal between these two helpless people, but on the other hand, it upholds the justice of morality and the creep psychological catharsis from the public crowds.

What is being neglected during this process is the privacy of specific individuals. Lin Yan’s killing refers more to the connotation of the Internet, which, as an invisible killer, murders her and damages her family by infinite disturbances and social pressures from different aspects. Perhaps the perfect situation only exists as an ideal where conscience could override legislation, but the reality bursts the bubble as well as the perfection, like the questioning of the two representatives of the website as to who they are and who gives them the right to report the privacy of individuals.

The issue becomes more problematic in the end where the female police officer Zhang Yao suddenly becomes famous due to the successfully investigated and resolved murder of Lin Yan and her information since birth is posted online. Facing the new group of journalists and the solicitude for the public sphere, will she be the next Gao Fei running and escaping from the public in order to save her own life? Or after all, is this a trip where the out-of-control enlargement of the public sphere discourse will be the end of speech-nihilism? Overall, the film is advising us to embrace the hyper-reality within the chance of democracy, rather than reflecting back on the Baudrillardian sense of the victory of the object over its subject.

Review by Ruodong HeInvisible Killer