Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Sarah Gadon, Melanie Laurent
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes
Edited by Molly Dolan
From the man who brought us the fantastic ‘Prisoners’, Denis Villeneuve, comes another thrilling mystery. Or a mystery at least. ‘Enemy’ is a quirky, subversive film, which oddly passed under the radar and onto our screens, ready to baffle indie film lovers the world over. Based on the novel ‘The Double’, written by Portuguese author Jose Saramago, this film has a tendency for the absurd and the fantastical, similar to other European films (think ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’). This is genuinely one of the most strange and creepy films I have ever watched, dealing with various psychological phenomena such as demons, the uncanny and of course, the double, leaving me with so many more questions than before I started watching, along with a touch of frustration and pangs of regret that I ever started in the first place.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as both lead characters; teacher Adam Bell, and his curious ‘movie star’ doppelganger, Daniel Saint Claire AKA Anthony Claire. We begin with Adam, a dull, disillusioned man in a seemingly troubled relationship with his partner Mary (Melanie Laurent). When a fellow teacher oddly recommends a film to Adam, he sees this as a possible, temporary escape from monotony, but upon watching Adam believes he has spotted his double, moonlighting as a bellhop extra. Desperate to know more, Adam tracks down the actor and obsessively stalks him, until the mystery man agrees to meet. Adam soon fears his creepily intense doppelganger, Anthony, who becomes rather dominant and develops an obsession of his own – Adam’s girlfriend Mary. Anthony threatens Adam and forces him into a trading-places situation, in order to facilitate an opportunity to sleep with Mary, whilst Adam entertains Anthony’s pregnant wife, Helen (Sarah Gadon). Confusing right? This is as simple as I can translate, believe me. This seedy plot descends into chaos and tragedy, all set to the backdrop of the recurring tarantula-themed nightmares which haunt Adam. I honestly have no idea what the arachnids were a nod to, even the cast of the film is bound to a confidentiality agreement, preventing them from discussing the significance of the surreal references.
The acting in the film is actually pretty accomplished, particularly Gyllenhaal who is at his versatile, intense best. As Adam, he is brilliantly authentic in his portrayal of a troubled, confused character but is far too hesitant and suspicious rather prematurely. There is no denying however, that his latter scenes with Helen are some of the most powerful and emotive of the whole film. It is as the aggressive, domineering, rather detestable Anthony though, where Gyllenhaal really flourishes. The amalgamation of the two characters resonates with his role as the titular character in ‘Donnie Darko’, an uncanny projection of a future Donnie, a 30-something schizophrenic with plenty more issues. I rank ‘Donnie Darko’ as my favourite film of all time, but this version of Donnie is so far over the line of ambiguity and disorder, that the whole experience became perplexing and exasperating. Of the two female characters in the film, Sarah Gadon is head and shoulders above her rather muted counterpart, depicting the fragile and vulnerable Helen faultlessly.
‘Enemy’ is an undeniably, clever piece of filmmaking, in terms of shot composition and editing, and the use of sound in particular was successful in framing the intensity of the unique sensation whilst viewing the film. Arguably, the moments of silence, in the style of ‘Drive’, were just as crucial in this function, if not more so. Ultimately, however, I was left very disappointed by the film as a whole. The impossibly vague, abrupt conclusion was incredibly mystifying and I certainly felt short-changed by the amount of time I had invested in the complex narrative. I love an ambiguous ending to a film because it allows me to decipher my own personal meaning, but ‘Enemy’ offered absolutely no hint of a resolution at all, refused to answer any of the major questions raised by the film and rendered me into a state of unsatisfying speechlessness.