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‘Invisible Demons’ Review: Capturing an Air Quality Crisis

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The title of the patiently observed documentary, ‘The Invisible Devil’, refers to tiny toxic particles polluting the air in India’s capital, New Delhi. But the name could also represent another culprit. Unable to find a solution for the city’s inhabitants, it’s the leader’s official who is out of danger.

Director Rahul Jain introduces a city on the brink of the apocalypse through a series of striking images. Overflowing with sewage and industrial waste, the Yamuna River is covered with dangerous foam. Towering piles of garbage speckle the streets. And on a particularly polluted day, Jain managed to record individual patches of dangerous haze. Microscopic matter moves across the screen in golden stripes. Breaking up the burgeoning cinematography is a series of casual interviews with Delhi residents.

Implicit in these pictures, and manifest in the testimonies, are striking boundaries of the impact of the crisis based on wealth and access. Only a few can afford air conditioners and air purifiers, and families without running water have to spend time fetching water from tanker trucks.

Intermittently, Jayne from Delhi provides additional information through narration. At one point, he acknowledges his place in society, recalling “growing up as an air-conditioned kid who couldn’t even imagine the natural world outside the city.” I wish more of that kind of narration to contextualize the devastating panorama he assembled. But most of the time, Jain lets the images speak.

invisible devil
Unrated. Hindi and English with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes. at the theater.

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