Invisible Waves opens with a rather unorthodox lovers’ rendezvous. We can conclude from the dialogue that the woman is cheating on her husband, but we learn little more about either of the couple. This scene is emblematic of the film itself, as Invisible Waves reveals itself to the audience slowly and deliberately. When it does offer up a morsel of plot and character, it is hardly ever directly, showing us more through its characters’ reactions to events rather than the events themselves.
When we next see the man, Kyoji (Tadanobu Asano) is being told by his boss to take a boat trip to Thailand. The reason for this trip is not readily apparent. The cabin he is assigned appears to be directly above the ship’s engine turbines and the sink and shower don’t work properly. Only the company of a fellow traveler makes the trip the slightest bit bearable.
But to reveal more of the plot, why Kyoji is going to Thailand and why is he allowing himself to be consumed by some inner, unexpressed emotion, would be a disservice to the film. Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, responsible for 2003’s Last Life In The Universe, has created a film that serves as a mood poem, a reflection of the emotions that Kyoji is subjecting himself to. It is a film that needs to be experienced as it gradually unfolds.
Although seemingly a very simple story, Invisible Waves contains hidden layers that only become apparent once the whole film has been viewed. The cinematographer by frequent Kar Wai Wong collaborator Christopher Doyle is grey and washed out with offset picture composition that reflects Kyoji’s own off-kilter state of mind. Many scenes play out in long, single shots, emphasizing the slow passage of time and weight of emotion that Kyoji has burdened himself with.