One word: complicated.
Enemy is the kind of film you have to see more than once. For me, a film that is hard to grasp makes it all the more intriguing. I’m a sucker for mind-boggling, complex movies and Enemy is exactly that. This film, I guess, is a surrealist thriller about doppelgangers discovering their mutual existence. Jake Gyllenhaal plays both leads.
Enter Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal), a mild-mannered university teacher who leads a solitary life. One day he watches a movie and he spots what appears to be his identical twin. Enemy centres around Adam’s obsession with finding his doppelganger.
Based on the novel The Double, by Jose Saramago, this film is a daring descent into the subconscious. It’ll most likely leave you scratching your head on more than one occasion. Calling this movie obscure would be an understatement, as it’s just plain weird at times. It features various nightmarish and sexual imagery, as we’re led into the lives of Adam and his double.
Figuring out the mystery of this film is part of the experience. The glaring imagery makes for an artistic piece of work and it almost harks back to the films of David Lynch. Enemy has a similar tone and level of uncertainty as many of Lynch’s surrealist movies.
The ambiguity is there right from the start. It opens with a title card stating “Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered.” I haven’t got a clue what this means, but what a great quote to open a movie with! Anyway, the film gets off to a compelling start when we’re introduced to Adam. He lives in Toronto with his girlfriend and teaches history. He’s an introverted guy, the dual opposite of his movie-star twin.
Turmoil. That’s how I’d describe Adam’s life after he discovers there’s a man who looks exactly like him. But Adam doesn’t help himself. He interferes with his double’s private affairs (whose name turns out to be Anthony), which leads him down a dark path. These men may be identical, but they have completely different personalities.
These characters are two halves of the same coin and the film is a slow interrogation of their psyches. Anthony is everything Adam isn’t. He’s a dominant, motorbike-riding actor that says what he thinks and does what he likes.
Gyllenhaal shifts between both personalities with skilful ease, delivering a truly great performance. He portrays the differences in subtle facial expressions and through body language. At points, I actually forgot that Gyllenhaal doesn’t literally have his own doppelganger. As one of my favourite actors, he sure doesn’t disappoint.
There are things in Enemy you will never see in mainstream cinema. Every moment is obscure and there’s always a suggestion of danger, menace and chaos. It’s a transcendent movie. It snaps viewer from reality and blasts them into a nightmare world.
Although I started this review by saying this film is complicated – which it is – it’s not confusing to the point that you don’t have a clue what’s going on. But it is a challenge, requiring patience and an open mind. If you’re a film-goer seeking an easy watch, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a beautifully crafted film that allows for different interpretations.
Enemy is an abstract, psychological study of two characters, connected by more than just their appearance. As they fumble their way through a landscape of nightmares, you’re made to make your own mind up on what it all means. Superior film.
Check out the trailer for Enemy below. And make sure you track the film down and give it a watch!
Quoted: “Control, it’s all about control. Every dictatorship has one obsession and that’s it.”
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Javier Gullon
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon.
Run Time: 90 minutes.
This is an updated post that was originally published last year. Please leave a comment, letting me know your thoughts on this review!