Economists around the world infer that the presence of a ‘benevolent patriarch’ in a household provides for harmony and peace in a family. It surely is male-dominated frivolous thinking, but this insane precedent of women being unnoticed, unheard, unseen, and underrepresented leaves us alarmed and concerned. Millions of women go missing, and the biased economy, the social system and the government abandon them to be victims of socio-economic deprivation. In “Unseen,” when Maxwell Mwale is imprisoned and accused of the murder of Yazid Noordien, and later when he is released from jail but doesn’t return home, it unsettles his wife, Zenzile Mwale, making her vulnerable to bias, abuse, sexism, having her dignity violated, and the trauma of losing her beloved husband and Esulu, her son. She is a cleaner, and therefore, no one cares whether she exists or not. Her actions, though invisible, give her an upper hand, allowing her to cause serious trouble to the extent of murdering one after another, on purpose or in self-defense, those knowing the whereabouts of her husband while on the lookout for him and probing the killing of her son.
Ozgur Onurme in “Unseen” makes use of the invisibility of women to show how ignorant society at large is about the capabilities of a woman who is desperate to know the truth and certain that her husband will return one day, or that he is still alive. The six episodes aren’t tiring to watch as they are quite efficiently edited and run from flashback to unfolding the present story. The flashbacks act as memories for Zenzile to motivate and encourage her to keep searching for her husband despite her landlord Alice, her employers, and other colleagues asking her to forget the past and her husband and start living her new life. The flashbacks are also a reminder of the sad emotions that she went through when she lost her son, and they give her the trauma that makes her a different and dangerous person. Raymond Hendricks recognizes her evil side and says that a demon has possessed her. He also states that she has the superpower that, despite committing the most heinous acts, nobody sees her or cares about her. The story is believable, and you never lose sight of the agenda, i.e., to let the world know that there are numerous women in our lives who may be insignificant but yet know everything about us. We live our lives so self-absorbed and obsessed that we never care about those on the periphery. Ngesi Lufuno, the author and journalist in the film, makes a note of this fact and wants to write about it in his new book.
The murders that take place one after another, if analyzed, weren’t premeditated by Zenzile, but you, as a viewer, tend to encourage her and want her to take the drastic step. Right from the beginning, when Zenzile wants to know where her husband is or what is happening, she visits Jackson Thom. But the sociopath that he is, Jackson denies knowing anything about Maxwell and tries to physically abuse Zenzile; she shoots him in self-defense. The other killings almost happened in defense of herself, or so we can say, because these men tried to hurt her at first. Deep down within you, you feel that the men deserved the tragic fate, but you also know that Zenzile is at fault when she takes the law into her hands. Imperceptible she might be, but the guilt and the blood of the dead are upon her soul, making her guilty.
Whether it is a movie or a series, and especially when the portrayal of a woman takes place, they represent a ‘never give up’ attitude like Zenzile. For instance, Bhumi in “She,” an Indian crime drama by Imtiaz Ali and Divya Johry, kept at it till the end despite fighting a major drug tycoon in disguise. Anvita Dutt takes it further in “Bulbbul” by making it possible for Bulbbul to supernaturally transform and become powerful to fight men who abuse and take advantage of their wives, etc. Bulbbul attempts to bring justice to all the girls and women of the village. Perhaps it is a deliberate effort to show that women are capable of transcending themselves and do not need men to be at their beck and call. Zenzile, all by herself, was able to find out about and reach Caledon to accompany her husband in finding the evidence to free himself from the charge of the murder of Yazid and put Blessing Jali behind bars. Zenzile shows exemplary courage and grit in the film and becomes an example to emulate for women who face extreme violence and victimization.
If closely analyzed, you come to the root cause of why the whole thing happened. It took place because of male chauvinism and the patriarchal mindset of Maxwell. If he had decided otherwise when Raymond requested that he take the fall for Blessing, things would probably have turned out differently. Without giving it a second thought or asking his wife about it, he took it upon himself to take the blame for the murder of Yazido. He believed Raymond and Joseph that if he took the blame, his family would have a better life, and he would have a better house and a better area to live in. That he will be capable of being a better husband and father. Unfortunately, when he is imprisoned, nothing of what is promised happens. He is cheated, and therefore, he becomes responsible for the tragic state of his family and also for the loss of his son.
The series changes the moral dynamic and shows us how there is a possibility of looking at a murder that happens in society from a different perspective. Maybe in “Unseen,” you don’t want to accuse the killer. You feel satisfied that the men are killed, and you also start to make a list of men who you think should be executed for just reasons. Each of the characters plays a significant part, and Ozgur Onurme has systematically introduced them and their world to us. You get first-hand information about the South African underworld. The character of Zenzile shoulders most of the scenes with great caliber; never will you feel lost; she holds your attention from the beginning to the end, making you believe what she is going through; only I felt her intellectual capabilities could also be utilized. Just once, we got a glimpse of it when her employer Ngesi was watching an interview, and Zenzile predicted who the murderer could be in the case being discussed on TV.
Was there a villain in the series? Yes, Andrew Harting was the main villain. But each of the antagonists had very little screen presence, and their characters perhaps needed a little bit of elaborate discussion. “Unseen” becomes predictable after the first killing by Zenzile, so much so that you know for sure whom Zenzile will kill next because of the pattern that the director hasn’t failed to change. While being obsessed with leaving no trace of any evidence of Zenzile, Ozgur Onurme chooses to take her and the victim to remote areas, either far from the CCTV cameras or far from the crowd that can be a witness. One camera catches her red-handed, but even there, they cannot say for sure that it is Zenzile. “Unseen” is memorable, but you feel that this is an already exhausted theme that, despite having been discussed, has made no difference in the society we live in.