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Enemy: Multiplicity, Chaos and Spiders

July 13, 2014

Enemy movie poster spider

Chaos is order undeciphered

Enemy is a headscratcher in all the right ways and leaves you stuck in your chair while you absorb the previous 90 minutes. The slow-burning film reminded me of Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color and Primer in their resolve to not pander to the audience. The answers are there (maybe) and you are left to piece the films together. They require multiple viewings and it is a pleasure to have them around. The Enemy experience reminded me of my 2002 viewing of Donnie Darko. When the movie ended I sat dazed in my room thirsting for knowledge while cursing my dial-up modem (The first thing I read was Ebert’s review).

Enemy is an adaptation of Jose Saramagos’s The Double and tells the story of a professor who realizes he has a double/twin/doppelganger. The two meet and it all gets weird. The film is loaded with dreams, clues, nightmares, sex and a refusal to pander. The ending punches you in the gut and leaves you feeling like you enjoyed the film but didn’t fully understand it.

Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal worked together on the underappreciated Prisoners and have developed a nice director/actor shorthand. There is a trust that has allowed Gyllenhaal to thrive while his director is able to trust the performance. The two roles he plays in Enemy couldn’t be more different. One of the characters dislikes confrontation while the other feels compelled to it. One drives a motorcycle and wears leather jackets while the other drives a Volvo and wears corduroy. They have the same chest scar, beard and hair yet their tactics vary wildly. They both have beautiful women in their lives whom they mistreat in different ways.

Enemy Jake Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal’s quiet brooding and ability to be confident while brimming with insecurity is perfect for his Enemy roles. You can’t read his characters and never know what is going on beneath the watchful eyes. The stark contrast in character allows you to look back and analyze why he stalks, cowers or cheats. Is there really two people? Is it one man with two lives? Are they in a Twilight Zone of Body Snatchers?

Enemy is not an easy film and won’t be widely appreciated because of that. However, people who enjoy carefully crafted films that raise questions will applaud. I can’t say that I’ve put the pieces together but my wife and I have had a fun time talking about it.

Enemy is a confounding tale that doesn’t stick to its source material (Spiders?) or give easy answers. However, at 90 minutes it is easy to be confused all over again. Enjoy!


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