Enemy: Villeneuve’s daring new drama
Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered
April 5, 2014
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal are setting out to start an empire. Beginning with last year’s Prisoners, a crime thriller, Gyllenhaal stars in Villeneuve’s new film Enemy, a psychological thriller about an average university professor who discovers that he has an identical twin. Based on The Double by Nobel Laureate José Saramago, Enemy cloaks the intro in darkness as the film opens with a man walking down a long, dark corridor.
This film is truly a head-scratcher. Even after watching it twice, I still couldn’t fully understand what was going on. Multiple theories were bouncing around in my head.
A university professor, Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal), is lecturing on chaos and dictators, their desire for control, and the repetitious nature of history itself. He goes home where he finds his girlfriend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent), waiting for him. After some debauchery and rest, he wakes up. He lectures on dictators. His life is rinse and repeat, until one day at lunch a co-worker recommends a movie, something “cheerful.” He goes home, sends Mary to bed alone, and stays up to watch. He notices that an extra in the movie looks exactly like him. Gradually becoming obsessed with their similarities, Adam does some research and finds the actor, Anthony Claire.
Once the nervy Adam and the more confident Anthony develop a toxic relationship, Enemy heads into dark and surprising directions. Following a heated discussion and shady threats, Anthony disguises himself as Adam and takes Mary out for a romantic weekend. Unbeknownst to Anthony, Adam takes his persona and goes home to Anthony’s wife. It is in these climactic final scenes that the movie proceeds to tear down any idea the viewer might have had about the film as Anthony and Adam’s significant others begin to say things that will leave the audience stunned.
Villeneuve uses every element in the movie to further our understanding, or rather confusion, of the world he’s created. From being set in a dreary, washed out Toronto to making multiple references to spiders, Villeneuve keeps the viewer consistently confused and wanting more.
Any movie that can captivate you and still leave you so confused is very much worth a watch.