Enemy, based on the book “The Double” by José Saramago, tells the story of Adam, a history teacher who tracks down his exact lookalike, named Anthony, after spotting him in a movie. Both men are played by Gyllenhaal with just the right amount of differences to tell them apart. The movie has an eerie, almost Hitchcockian quality about it, like something sinister is bubbling just below the surface. He eventually confronts his doppelgänger (isn’t that a great word?) and we are left with one of the most terrific movie endings in recent memory. And I’m using that word in both its everyday definition meaning excellent and its more archaic usage meaning that the ending caused terror. The ending also elicited a litany of expletive exclamations from me that not even 2001: A Space Odyssey produced. I won’t spoil Enemy for any of you that haven’t seen it, but it’s wild ride that is very deliberate in taking its time getting to the end.
I’ll admit that the movie confused me after my first viewing, but I’m sure with another viewing I’d have been able to figure out what was going on. My ability to do so was hindered by the puzzling presence of giant spiders scattered throughout the film, not unlike the one seen looming over Toronto in one of the promotional posters. The presence of spiders complicated the narrative for me, which was already hard enough to follow in a visual sense because of a darkened sepia-toned color scheme that had me squinting at the screen.
It took a lot of thinking and I read a lot of theories about the film on message boards before I really got a grasp of what the film was saying. Much like Prisoners, there’s nothing really new about the main theme of the movie; my enjoyment comes from the presentation. Like I said, I cautiously recommend it. Think about what you’re being shown and what’s being implied. Does Adam really have a doppelgänger walking around Toronto? What do the spiders represent? Let it all sink in and marinate in your brain for a while before making a judgement. Perhaps this is why only sixty-three percent of audiences liked it, because it requires active viewing. I, for one, enjoy movies like this and think we need more of them today in mainstream cinema.
With Prisoners, Villeneuve had my interest. With Enemy, he now has my attention. I went back into his filmography and tried to watch as many of his past films as I could get my hands on. If you liked Prisoners because of its fairly straightforward narrative, I’d also recommend 2009’s Polytechnique. It’s also dark and fairly straightforward. His film Maelström from 2000, on the other hand, is narrated by a talking fish. I should have remembered that this is the weirdness that Villeneuve is capable of before going into Enemy. Nevertheless, I am eager to see what else Villeneuve comes up with. Because of him, I’m now more willing to seek out Gyllenhaal’s films, like Southpaw.
Have you seen any of Villeneuve’s films? Do you have a favorite Gyllenhaal film? Let me know in the comments below!