I watched two films recently regarding doppelgangers. The first film was Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Denis Villeneuve, the second was The Double starring Jesse Eisenberg and directed by Richard Ayoade.
Both films came out in 2013, both deal with an unexptected encounter with a doppelganger and both are based on books. Despite the similarities these films couldn’t be more different.
Both films have a very distinct feel to them. Enemy is set in modern day Toronto and The Double is set…I don’t know when but it has a deliciously retro feel.
Enemy has an unsetlling quality from the get go, and there’s a spider motif that runs through the film which adds to the strange atmosphere. The Double also has an unsettling feeling but for totally different reasons.
Enemy deals with fear of commitment and The Double is more a existential allegory. Both have been described as ‘arty’ but that’s to be expected when something isn’t a blockbuster or strays from the norms of filmmaking.
Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double, tells the story of a man who spots his doppelganger in a movie and becomes obsessed with finding him only to change his mind when it’s too late to turn back.
Villeneuve had worked with Gyllenhaal before on Prisoners, which was a decent film, if overly long and if I’m honest I don’t think Gyllenhaal was the right choice for the role.
Enemy on the other hand works perfectly with Gyllenhaal as the lead, he plays the shy history teacher and stylish actor with ease and that helps make the film compelling. There’s a real sense of ‘what the hell is going on?’ but in the best way.
The Double, directed by Richard Ayoade, is based on the novella The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Jesse Eiseberg, who I seem to have an allergic reaction to, plays a man driven to insanity by his doppelganger who takes over his life.
As Simon, Eisenberg is a quiet, unconfident, lonely man who is smitten with a girl, Hannah played by Mia Wasikowska, who works in the same building as him and who also lives across from him in a block of flats.
One day a new guy starts work at the same company and Simon is alarmed and actually faints when he comes face to face with his doppelganger James. He is stunned no one seems to realise they look identical until it’s pointed out and even then people don’t seem that concerned about it.
Simon is confident, outoing and catches the eye of Hannah, the girl Simon has fallen for.
And so the swap begins, confident James swaps places with Simon in order to help Simon win the affection of Hannah and from there things go wrong.
I really enjoyed Submarine, the first film directed and writted by Richard Ayoade so I was looking forward to this, despite the fact I really can’t stand Jesse Eiseberg. I loved the style of the film, it had a real Gilliamesque quality. I really love the TV show that is ocasionally playing in the back ground and features Paddy Considine and a great cameo from Chris Morris.
There are flashes of comedy throughout the film so it never feels as bleak as it might have been in another directors hands and these flashes of comedy are what separates The Double from Enemy.
Of the two films I think I preferred Enemy, it was really was a headfuck to watch and I always like films that mess with your head a bit. Still, The Double was just as entertaining but lacked the WTF factor.