ZAC STREVENS – Montreal
After initially making a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is being released a mere couple of months before another film dealing with multiple selves, a film that boasted perhaps the most intriguing – and exciting – teaser trailer of 2013:
The Double is based on the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella of the same name. All it shares in common with Enemy is that the main protagonist encounters an antagonistic apparent replica of himself, and that they are based on books. Maybe. I haven’t seen The Double, and to be honest I’m just using Enemy as an excuse to trumpet
Maurice Moss Richard Ayoade directing Eisenberg V Eisenberg.
Anyway, this digression is grossly unfair because Enemy is nothing short of enthralling.
An adaptation of the 2002 book by Portugese author Jose Saramango (a book that I admitedtly have never read, but will be doing so after seeing this) the film sees Jake Gyllenhaal play Adam Bell, a Toronto-based history teacher stuck in a desperate mediocrity. His mother is worried about him, and he seems powerless to stop – and apathetic toward escaping – the repeating cycle his life has become. His is an uninteresting routine of work and sex with Mélanie Laurent (what a bummer). Any attempt to break this routine is met with denial, until finally something out of the ordinary.
On the (maybe) random suggestion of a work colleague, Bell rents a film, 1 and in that film he spots an extra that looks exactly like him. After some digging he finds the man is Anthony St. Claire (also Gyllenhaal), a struggling actor with a seemingly better life than his own. Bell tracks down St Claire and suggests a meeting. They do meet, and then…well…things happen.
I feel like I’ve said too much already. You’re not getting any more plot description than that, just go see this flick – the less you know the better. In fact, just stop reading this altogether until you see it, there’s probably unintentional spoilers somewhere…
Still here? Thanks, I appreciate you allowing my warning to go unheeded.
Initially this film appears as if it will comment on the dangers inherent in repressed and unfulfilled men looking for – and clinging onto – any opportunity for change and mystery in their otherwise nothing lives. Come films end it’s about how men treat women, how men treat themselves, and how men deal with the conflicting aspects of their psyche. Probably. It’s also about spiders.
Toronto is made to look like a concrete web; another urban sprawl or nameless city from a society that boasts so many. Shots of the CN Tower looming in the background are the only real giveaway that this is in fact T-Dot. An uncomfortable tinge of yellow permeates the entire film, its presence is felt everywhere. It’s dirty, grimy, and uncomfortable.
Villeneuve has a knack for extended shots sans dialogue that require the actors to emote solely using facial gestures and body language. It is a form of acting that can lend itself to melodrama and unintentional hilarity, but in skillful hands it can result in transfixing cinema, and Enemy is start-to-finish transfixing.
Gyllenhaal is magnetic as both Adam and St-Claire, and this is among his best work to date. Appearing in nearly every scene, his ability to portray both characters as unmistakably different identities is impeccable. It is his second appearance in a Villeneuve film in 12 months (the other being Prisoners) and it is obvious the two have a rewarding relationship – for the viewer and each other. Sarah Gadon – as St Claire’s wife – is also enchanting. She has a witch-like screen presence to which you cannot avert your eyes. Mélanie Laurent is given little to do – and Isabella Rossellini is in the film for about the duration of Luke Perry’s film career – but really this is Gyllenhaal’s show, and he embraces the task.
“Chaos is order yet undeciphered” the film textually declares upon beginning. Enemy is chaotic and will take some deciphering, it delights in being deliciously ambiguous, and doesn’t provide easy answers.
See the movie, read the book if you can, and join us in three months time for a comprehensive spoiler-filled After The Dust Settles take on this captivating film. It’s going to take that long to deliver a comprehensive analysis of the following question;
Zac Strevens is Editor-In-Coost of Podcoost.com. After previously calling Melbourne and London home, he currently resides in Montreal, where he is either sweating or freezing. His work has been published in Inside Football. @zstrevens
- Like literally rents a film. From a video store. Does this tell us the film is set in the near-past? No idea. This film doesn’t like answering simple questions like ‘When is this film set’ and ‘Who’s that guy?’ This is not a bad thing. ↩