Invisible Adversaries

Invisible Adversaries (German: Unsichtbare Gegner) is a 1977 Austrian experimental drama film directed by Valie Export, her debut feature film.[1]

Invisible Adversaries
DVD cover
Directed byValie Export
Written byValie Export
Peter Weibel
Produced byValie Export
CinematographyWolfgang Simon
Edited byJuno Sylva Englander
Valie Export
Valie Export Filmproduktions GmbH
Release date
4 February 1977
Running time
104 Minutes


Set in contemporary Vienna, the film involves a photographer, Anna, who discovers that extraterrestrial beings are colonizing the minds of her fellow citizens by raising the human aggression quotient. The outer world immediately becomes disjointed, yet the inner world does too, as Anna and her lover, Peter, try to hang onto their deteriorating relationship.


  • Susanne Widl as Anna
  • Peter Weibel as Peter
  • Josef Plavec
  • Monica Helfer-Friedrich
  • Dominick Dusek
  • Herbert Schmid
  • Edward Neversal
  • Helke Sander


The film was released on DVD by Facets Multi-Media in 2011 in a limited edition of 500 copies.[2]


Critical opinion regarding the film has been overwhelmingly positive. The Village Voice critic J. Hoberman, who in 1981 included the film in his list of the ten best films commercially released in the United States during that year,[3] more recently wrote that the film is one "of the richest avant-garde features of the 1970s" and praised its "winning combination of sexual frankness and visual wit,"[4] while another critic, Dennis Schwartz, wrote that the "film's beauty is derived from its sexual frankness and playfully drawn out intimate relationship scenes, witty use of photography, and its originality as it breaks free of conventional unities of body, space and time. Export skillfully edits montage and integrates video, still photography, and performance art with elements from Cubism, Surrealism, Dada and avant-garde cinema."[5] Artforum noted in November 1980 that "[w]atching their scenes together, we realize how seldom, if ever before, the details of sexual intimacy have been shown in film from the point of view from a woman. Export privileges rupture over unity and never settles for one-dimensional solutions" and it was called one "of the most original films in this year's exposition" and a "tour de force of cinematic invention" grounded in the director's "fresh and intelligent sensibility, characteristically self-referential. Her visual resources include mirrors, still photography, video, dance, and films within the film, all employed with a bold and surprising inventiveness" by the catalogue notes of the 1978 Los Angeles International Film Exposition.[6] Similarly, critic Alison Butler wrote that the "film is a witty and visually brilliant essay on gender and experience, culture and environment"[7] and program notes used by the San Francisco Cinematheque during a screening quote critic Amy Taubin as opining that the film "makes you reconsider what you and everyone else is doing – in life and in art" and critic Steve Anker underscoring that it is an important "crossover film" combining "avant-garde and theatrical sensibilities, made during the mid-1970s. It chronicles the nightmarish breakdown of a fashion photographer as she confronts her waning identity and security as a career woman; blending narrative experimentation, fantasy, fact and theoretical critique, it has enormous impact on independent features which followed it."[8] PopMatters noted that the film has "enough originality to nag at patient viewers and get at least partially under our skin"[9] and critic Michael Atkinson wrote that it is a "weird, restless, beguilingly offbeat bit of dreamwork."[10] The film was presented for the first time at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1977,[11] it has won a Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival[12] and was recently called "seminal" during a screening at a repertory cinema,[13] "a strong and humoristic showdown" at another[14] and "a sonically-complex, montage-rich, darkly funny and uriniferous cornerstone of avant-garde cinema" during a screening at a New York University class.[15] Critic Peter Hajek wrote in the Austrian newspaper Kurier that "Valie Export presents this psychopanoptic view of the present in solid, striking images and often in unexpected humorous passages."[16] Critic Chris Holmlund, author of the scholarly article "Feminist Makeovers: The Celluloid Surgery of Valie Export and Su Friedrich," referred to Invisible Adversaries as a feminist version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, noted that the film includes references to famous paintings and to Un Chien Andalou, and wrote that therefore it "is visually rick, entertaining, striking, but also demanding."[17] A few reviews, however, were negative. For example, London's Time Out wrote about the film that it is "[n]ot unlike W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism" and that it will "probably age as badly"[18] and a reviewer for The Heights wrote that "I was expecting a great feminist work here, but got mediocrity. I cannot recommend that you see this film," though he nevertheless praised the film as a "cornucopia of video spectacle [in which] Export delights, confounds and amuses the audience with her antics."[19]


  1. ^ Kehr, Dave (10 January 2004). "Invisible Adversaries". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Invisible Adversaries". Facets Multi-Media. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  3. ^ D'Angelo, Mike. "J. Hoberman". Caltech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 14 February 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  4. ^ Hoberman, J. (8 December 1998). "Desperate Measures". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 15 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Dennis (15 November 2004). "A Feminist Revamping of Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Ozu's World Movie Reviews. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Valie Export (b. 1940)". Virtual Circuit. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Invisible Adversaries (Unsichtbare Gegner)". Women Make Movies: Films by and About Women. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  8. ^ Allison, Maya (September 1995 – August 1996). "San Francisco Cinematheque 1995 Program Notes, eds. C. Whiteside and Irena Leimbacher. Austrian Avant-Garde Cinema: 1955–1993. Program 6: Intimate Invasions/Subverting Sexuality. Sunday, 6 February 1995 – San Francisco Art Institute". San Francisco Cinematheque, 480 Portero Avenue, San Francisco, California 94110, pp. 8–9. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  9. ^ Barrett, Michael (25 November 2011). "Invisible Adversaries/The Practice of Love". PopMatters. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  10. ^ Atkinson, Michael. "Invisible Adversaries – 1977 Sci-Fi from Avant-Garde Director Valie Export". TCM: Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  11. ^ "1977 Erster Spielfilm Unsichtbare Gegner, 1977". Valie Export's Official Website (in German). Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  12. ^ Felando, Cynthia. "Valie Export Films/Valie Export Filmography/Valie Export Biography/Valie Export Career/Valie Export Awards". Film Directors Site. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  13. ^ "What's On/Valie Export: Invisible Adversaries (Unsichtbare Gegner)". LUX: Artists' Moving Image. 15 June 2007. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  14. ^ "16 and 27 November 2008 Valie Export. Unsichtbare Gegner at Cinemateket". Index: The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  15. ^ "11/3 – Artists on Film: Invisible Adversaries". New York University, Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, Asian/Pacific/American Studies. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  16. ^ "Unsichtbare Gegner". AFC: Austrian Film Commission. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  17. ^ Holmlund, Chris. "Feminist Makeovers: The Celluloid Surgery of Valie Export and Su Friedrich" (Chapter 14). In: Horton, Andrew, and Stuart Y. McDougal (editors). Play It Again, Sam: Retakes on Remakes. University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 0520205936, 9780520205932. p. 218.
  18. ^ Andrew, Geoff (24 June 2006). "Invisible Adversaries". Time Out London. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  19. ^ Kelley, Peter (14 November 1983). "Invisible Adversaries Invading". The Heights, Volume LXV, Number 10, p. 23. Retrieved 31 December 2013.

External linksEdit