Director: Denis Villeneuve
Studio: Mecanismo Films
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini
The newest film made by Prisoners collaborators director Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal is Enemy, and it’s engineered to mess with your head.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a depressed, colorless college lecturer who has a soulless, off-and-on sexual thing with a beautiful blonde (Mélanie Laurent). A colleague notices the poor drone's zombielike apathy and casually recommends a silly comedy movie on home video. While watching it, Adam grows profoundly troubled to spot his exact double, his doppelgänger, playing the tiny role of a hotel bellhop. He learns the identity of this day player named Anthony St. Claire, finds him in a few other films and becomes obsessed with tracking him down. They meet in a dark hotel room and, lo and behold, they are absolutely identical down to the matching scar on their torsos, except that Anthony is more confident, aggressive and confrontational.
But that’s where their already bizarre relationship gets even stranger, with both men invading each other's private lives and bedrooms. Enemy really goes to town in playing on the viewer's subconscious. Percussive sounds and snake rattles pepper the soundtrack. Nicolas Bolduc's cinematography features a desaturated, sickly brown color palette, smoggy skies and images of detachment and loneliness. As Prisoners showed, Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve are simpatico. Gyllenhaal's work here is even more impressive as he compellingly plays dual roles, using tiny shifts in body language and facial expression that always keep the two men distinct but alike. Villeneuve works from Javier Gullón’s screenplay adaptation of the novel The Double by the masterful Nobel Prize–winning Portuguese novelist José Saramago. The novel, with its resonant echoes of Dostoevsky, Jorge Luis Borges and Patricia Highsmith, is a brilliant piece of work that might have intrigued Alfred Hitchcock. Like Vertigo, for instance (a reproduction poster for which appears in a video store scene),
Enemy explores the nature of identity, obsession with death, duality, unknowable metaphysics, riddles within riddles; it even features two enigmatic blondes (Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon) who could practically be aspects of the same characters. The filmmakers take things in wildly different directions from Saramago’s, sending things down so many relentlessly glum, maddeningly obscure and surreally bizarre labyrinths that, at times, they feel like add-ons, homages to “the Davids” (Cronenberg and Lynch, with an occasional side of Fincher). It's a movie of almost two hours of slow-moving camera work, a sinister mood and shots filled with spidery menace. Fine and dandy if you're in the mood for it, but you have to wonder whether Villeneuve doesn't pile on more art flick oddity for oddity’s sake than the tale requires.