Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Enemy (2013 film)
Based on the novel The Double by Jose Saramago, Enemy is the story of a man who learns that he has a double who looks a lot like him as his life begins to unravel. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and screenplay by Javier Gullon, the film is a study of identity and a man coping with the idea of having a double. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini. Enemy is a provocative yet eerie film from Denis Villeneuve.
The film follows a college history professor whose dull and unfulfilling life is changed when he rents a movie which features an appearance by someone who looks exactly likes him where he tries to find out who he is and what connection they have. It’s a film that never reveals what it is about other than a man trying to find about his double prompting the double to find out more about this man. Javier Gullon’s screenplay is filled with a lot of ambiguities and ideas about identity relating to this man who learns about the idea of having someone who looks exactly like him. There are also these elements of strange symbolism as it relates to spiders as it play into the different personalities of the history professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his double in a former local actor in Anthony Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal). Adam is a quieter and more reserved individual while Anthony is more lively and outgoing as it add to this element of duality between these two when they would eventually meet. Anthony’s pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) would find out about Adam as she would meet him though he has no idea who she is which only prompts Anthony to confront this man who has been trying to find him.
Denis Villeneuve’s direction is definitely entrancing from this strange opening sequence of Adam/Anthony going into this mysterious erotic show where it is filled with symbolism and then shifts into something normal as it relates to the monotony that is Adam’s life. It’s a life that has a routine where he goes to work at a college in Toronto, goes back to his apartment, have a visit from his girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent), have sex with her, and then go to sleep. It’s a simple though dull routine until a colleague of Adam suggested him a movie to watch as it would change everything as Villeneuve maintains an intimacy through his compositions in the usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into the drama. The film is shot on location in Toronto as this city that very modern but also chaotic as it play into this troubling sense of duality and clashing personalities of Adam and Anthony where there is one moment in the film where a gigantic spider is walking over the city.
The direction also has Villeneuve create elements of surrealism as it relates to the references of spiders as it play into these different personalities of Adam and Anthony. There is a scene during the second act where the former turns to his mother (Isabella Rossellini) as she has no answers and could be hiding something but Villeneuve chooses to remain ambiguous throughout the film. The film’s third act is about control in what Anthony wants to do to Adam where it exhibits all of his darker traits while Adam is just trying to move on from this uneventful meeting. The sense of duality, identity, and ambiguity would loom for much of the film’s third act as well as displaying this air of surrealism which would only create more question than answers. Overall, Villeneuve creates a strange yet evocative film about a man who learns he has a double who looks exactly like him.
Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of sepia-like colors to create that sense of griminess in some of the exteriors as well as the usage of low-key lights for many of the interiors set at night. Editor Matthew Hannam does excellent work with the editing as it play into the drama as well as the suspense with its rhythmic cuts and a few jump-cuts along the way. Production designer Patrice Vermette, with set decorator Jim Lambie and art director Sean Breaugh, does fantastic work with the look of the apartments that Adam and Anthony live in as well as Adam’s classroom and the video store he goes to find more of the movies Anthony did. Costume designer Renee April does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual from more buttoned-down look of Adam to the looser look of Anthony.
Prosthetic designer Adrien Morot does terrific work with one of the film’s key effects which is Helen’s pregnant belly. Visual effects supervisor Vincent Poitras does superb work with the film’s minimal visual effects which is essentially bit of set dressing as well as the look of the giant spider. Sound designer Oriol Tarrago does amazing work with the sound in creating these eerie and low-key textures as it add to the suspense including in some of the film’s quieter moments. The film’s music by Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans do incredible work with the music as it’s this very ominous and discordant music as it help create this unsettling atmosphere for the film while music supervisor Velma Barkwell provides an offbeat soundtrack that features cuts by Bob Kuban and the In-Men, Jonathan Richman, and the Walker Brothers.
The casting by Deirdre Bowen is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Daryl Dinn as a video store clerk, Joshua Peace as a colleague of Adam, Tim Post as Anthony’s concierge, the trio of Misha Highstead, Megan Mane, and Alexis Ulga as the mysterious women at the erotic underground club, Kedar Brown as a security guard, and Isabella Rossellini in a fantastic performance as Adam’s mother who is shocked by the news about Anthony whom she never knew as she doesn’t want to know more about it while being very ambiguous. Melanie Laurent is excellent as Mary as Adam’s girlfriend who is taken aback by sudden changes in Adam’s behavior after seeing a film Anthony was in as she has no clue what is going on until late in the film.
Sarah Gadon is brilliant as Helen as Anthony’s pregnant wife who would be the first to know about Adam through a phone call as she becomes troubled by the fact that Anthony has a double as she becomes concerned about Anthony’s behavior. Finally, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal in a phenomenal dual performance as Adam and Anthony where he displays an aloofness and restraint in the former as someone who is nice and sensible while he is more lively but also arrogant and aggressive where Gyllenhaal gives this very chilling performance in playing the complexity of two men discovering themselves.
Enemy is a sensational film from Denis Villeneuve that features an incredible leading performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Along with its supporting cast, eerie sound design, haunting score, harrowing visuals, and an ambiguously offbeat story. It’s a film that doesn’t provide any kind of answer but rather a lot of intrigue where it dares the audience to ask a lot of questions as well as provide their own interpretation about identity and chaos. In the end, Enemy is a spectacular film from Denis Villeneuve.
Denis Villeneuve Films: August 32nd on Earth – Maelstrom – Polytechnique – Incendies - Prisoners (2013 film) - Sicario - Arrival (2016 film) - Blade Runner 2049 - Dune-Part One (2021 film) - The Auteurs #68: Denis Villeneuve
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