Original Title

Nähtamatu võitlus


Kung Fu Comedy

Production Year


Country of Origin


Language Spoken



115 mins

Locarno FF (World Premiere) International Competition 


Rainer Sarnet
Rainer Sarnet


Ursel Tilk

Ester Kuntu

Kaarel Pogga

Production Company
Homeless Bob Production

Katrin Kissa

Local release date
Q4 2023

USSR-China border, 1973. Rafael, is in the army on guard duty when the border falls under attack from flying Chinese kung fu warriors. Utterly fascinated by the long-haired Chinese hippie black-clad kung fu aces flying around blasting forbidden Black Sabbath music from their portable radio Rafael gets struck by a revelation; he too wants to become a kung fu warrior. Faith leads Rafael to an Orthodox monastery where the black-clad monks do their training but his road to achieving the almighty power of humility required is long, winding and full of kick-ass adventures. Synopsis

Not Of this world

THE team

Rainer Sarnet


Rainer Sarnet is a film director who mainly writes his own scripts, often basing them on literature. Sarnet who is passionate about Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Orthodox mysticism, has in addition to filmmaking also directed plays in the theatre, based on texts by Przybyszewski and Jelinek, among others, and considers reading one of his favourite activities. The Invisible Fight is his third feature film with Homeless Bob Production, after The Idiot (2011) and November. Art is a poetic way to describe human psychology” Sarnet has said. 


Katrin Kissa


Katrin Kissa’s cooperation with Veiko Õunpuu started in 2006 with Empty and continued with the highly lauded Autumn Ball and The Temptation of St.Tony, produced by their joint company Homeless Bob Production. These were followed by The Idiot, based on the Dostoyevsky classic, and Veiko Õunpuu’s Free Range / Ballad On Approving Of The World, which was internationally released in 2014 at the Berlinale Forum. Homeless Bob Production produces only author-driven films and subtly, but persistently, furrows its way into the soil of film history.


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For me, The Invisible Fight is about authenticity.

Interview with the director

(Rainer Sarnet interviewed by Tristan Priimägi excerpt)

The Invisible Fight sports a blend of elements that are seemingly incompatible – kung fu, Black Sabbath, Soviet era, orthodox church. How did this mix come about and became a cohesive movie?

It started when I brought my friend in the hospital a book called „Not of This World“. It contained real-life stories of two young orthodox monks who both died young. The gift was meant to be taken with black humour – we are both fans of decadence. Friend proposed me an idea: to make a movie about monks. So, he gave me a present in return. The story that stood out for me in the book, spoke about a young monk, Father Rafael, who was active in the Soviet Union in the Seventies, in the monastery in Pechory. I began to explore the era and it turned out that many young Russian monks were ex-hippies. There was a resistance to the material world, and, as hippies, orthodox monks wear their hair long, have black clothes, and there are skulls in the catacombs. You might say that their universe seemed quite rock’n’roll to me. The idea to use the music of Black Sabbath developed from there, and to start to arc of the protagonist with some kind of rebellious act. For him, the catalyst is outer coolness, like it is with youth. Exploring Father Rafael’s life, it came out that he had served in the army near the Chinese border, his military unit was attacked by Chinese bandits, and he alone stayed alive. At that point, the thought of adding kung fu emerged: Rafael sees the Chinese use it while in the army and is inspired to learn it himself. Just as religion, martial arts were forbidden in the Soviet Union. So, it’s a sort of double rebellion. I also chaned upon a website called “Death to the World”, run by an ex-punk orthodox monk. There was a line: the last real revolt is the monastery. So that kung fu, Black Sabbath and the monastery are joined together by rebellion.

My contact with Black Sabbath happened in school, thanks to my niece who had all the Sabbath records and he barely listened to anything else. He tried to write similar poetry, containing hell, demons and old graveyards. Making this film, I asked an orthodox priest, if it’s okay to use Black Sabbath music in this context, and he answered that Ozzy sings about the same religious things – Ozzy is a religious man.

What does the film talk about? The burden of being a human and the responsibility that comes with it? Is that something you ponder a lot?

For me, The Invisible Fight is about authenticity. Be who you are. My protagonist is dumb and joins the monastery for the wrong reasons, but he is authentic in his stupidity, and that is crucial for any kind of development. The fake does not evolve. You need to have some sort of infantile open mind. The Gospel emphasizes the role of a child; we are children of God. Our relation to God is like that of a child, who is to be forgiven and loved. Finding and maintaining that childish spirit was crucial while making this film. And writing it. I tried to switch off the intellectual role play of a grown-up as best I could. In me, and also in Rafael. I discovered that my 10-year-old son is a fan of this film, as well as the son of Katrin Kissa, our producer. Some kind of childish spirit entered The Invisible Fight. I do not dwell much on how to be human, at least not consciously. As the clerics say: in Christianity, everything should come simply and naturally, without effort. You cannot do all the right things here and now either. And we cannot achieve everything relying only on our own strength. But what is impossible for man, is obtainable for God. This is the state of the child.

The Invisible Fight offers a whole array of quasi-religious doctrines that are wildly exaggerated at times. Should people learn something from those? Or the film?

When I met the monks for the first, time, I was very surprised by their humour. Sense of the absurd, even. As one monk said, without sense of the absurd, there is no way to put earth and heaven together. I discovered a lot of joy there. Not artificial joy, but real one. Orthodox has been called the faith of the heart. There is very little what is scholastic, or rational. Heart leads the way; emotions, love and beauty. Saint Siluan, a 20th Century saint, says that there is no understanding of the Bible without the grace of the holy spirit. What’s important is the condition, the state of love. It is one thing to understand the Bible with reason, the other, with state of love. The clerics say that it’s not even of any importance what we do or say (we all do and say something stupid from time to time), but our state of mind. Joy is the objective. Then there is no malignancy. There is joy behind the cross. If my film was to carry any message, it would be an invitation to be more joyful. An ode to joy, if you will.


Ursel Tilk


Ursel Tilk studied at the Drama School at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, has frequented European theatre stages, but has today rooted himself to the Estonian countryside between two moors. He has always been fascinated by physical theatre, the beauty and pain of the human body and its physicality. Tilk is playing the main character of “The Invisible Fight”, Rafael, a hooligan who wants to become a monk. The role has had an enormous impact on the actor himself and his attitude towards life. “My character Rafael believes that God has plans for him and by its nature, this is something that inspires to have trust in life and its ways and to have trust to one’s heart,” says Tilk.

Ester Kuntu


“I like the theatre, but my heart is in film,” says Ester Kuntu, an awarded film and theatre actress. An avid figure skater as a child, Kuntu later turned to martial arts, a passion of hers until this day. “But as it happens I only have one blow in this kung-fu movie – a simple slap in the face,” she says. “Rainer wasn’t looking for learnt skills – he was searching for hidden purity, the invisible.” The actress describes making “The Invisible Fight” a rampant journey on the borders of reality: “I would compare it to flying.” Kuntu plays Rita, who represents the Orthodox female archetype, where humility is combined with sexuality.

Kaarel Pogga


Kaarel Pogga graduated from the Drama School at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2020 and has since been working as an actor in one of the biggest theatres in Estonia, Vanemuine. Kaarel describes “The Invisible Fight” as the most crazy and fascinating work of his life. The young man who at the age of three dreamt of becoming John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and plays the accordion himself says he trusted the director Rainer Sarnet immediately from the first day of shooting: “He has a unique imagination and an insane amount of energy.” Pogga plays the role of Irinei – a man becoming a true monk.

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