The junkies in Konstantin Bojanov's documentary Invisible are uniformly young and bright, and they spend their days on the street, philosophizing—mostly about heroin. Like, how could it be that dangerous, when it's made of natural substances? And how come so many religions are anti-drug, when ancient religions used drugs as part of their spiritual rituals? They talk about this with Bojanov while they shoot up, or pop pills, or huff chemicals out of plastic bags.
Bojanov shot Invisible over the course of three years, during visits to his native Bulgaria from his adopted home in New York. The film is partly a travelogue, set in the city of Sofia, where decommissioned tanks sit on the edges of industrial parks, while arcades, malls, and cafés bustle in the heart of downtown. Invisible's subjects haunt the busy parts of the city during the day, and all that distinguishes them from normal society are their assortment of scrapes, bruises, and pus-filled open sores. At night, the junkies congregate in alleys and abandoned buildings, which Bojanov and his cameraman Hristo Bozajiev light starkly, giving the underworld a dreary but romantic cast. Bojanov dwells on the contrast between the light and dark spaces, and the poisoned people who wander between them freely, making self-deluded pronouncements like "I wanted something more than a normal life."
Invisible is undeniably compelling, as Bojanov visits and revisits these people over a period of years—when they're in the thick of rationalizing their habit, and later when they're trying to kick it—along the way catching near-ODs and a lot of surprisingly lucid conversation. But there's something curiously elitist about Invisible's conception. It's not surprising that Bojanov is drawn to the kind of people who might've been his friends in school, but he's too willing to let them elevate themselves above the common junkies who turn back and forth from their pushers to the church. As Invisible's enlightened addicts discuss the girlfriends, sex drives, and educational opportunities lost, they almost sound proud of their self-created trials. At one point, one boasts, "Nobody could make a movie that captures what I've been through." Bojanov unfortunately admires him too much to turn down the dare.