Spoilers might crawl up on you.
This is an underrated movie for both its director, Denis Villeneuve, and its main actor, Jake Gyllenhaal. I’m going to try to tell you why I like it without spoiling it too much, but I feel I must warn you. This movie requires heavy thinking and theories have already been said, declared and deduced about it. Some we can call accurate, as they were hinted at by the actual creators of the film and some will be up for debate.
Enemy (2013) was directed by Denis Villeneuve from a screenplay by Javier Gullón, based upon the novel by José Saramago, “The Double / O Homem Duplicado”. When we start, we meet history teacher Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal), a nervous character that seems to live a bleak life, despite having a loving girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). On a casual conversation with a colleague, he is recommended a movie where he finds one of the supporting actors has an undeniable likeness to himself. Obsessed, he manages to track down and find actor Anthony Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal). Anthony is married to Helen (Sarah Gadon), who is six months pregnant with his child.
The movie is filmed in dull, muted tones as if we’re watching everything through sunglasses. It looks and sounds amazing. There are details in the background and music that clue us into more happening that we can perceive. As the movie advances, we get distinct and sometimes shocking imagery. A woman with a spider head. A giant spider over Toronto. There’s a subtle theme running through the movie of spiders and keys that you will find analyzed online. Adam Bell and Anthony Claire are not long lost twin brothers.
There are very strong clues through the film that connect our two strangers together. A torn photograph that one owns is found whole and framed in the house of the other. Anthony’s wife mentioning him having a past affair. The initial scene in an underground club where sex acts are being performed to a select audience. There’s a theme of infidelity running through the entire storyline. You can also hear it from his mother (Isabella Rosallini) in an ambiguous advice that seems to be aimed at either person.
And then, there’s that ending. This is not a horror film, but I’m told that a few people find the strange ending very unsettling. It is sudden, it feels to come out of the blue, but once you’ve worked it out it is somewhat fitting to the story and the theme. That’s not to say it can be a bit of a jumpscare. Actually the first time I saw it, it even felt slightly comical – even silly. Definitely might merit a couple of extra viewings to take in, if you have the patience. Still worth at least a watch, but definitely not for the casual audience.
Strongly recommended with reservations. This is not a comedy, it’s not frightful but it is a lot more of a psychological thriller than it lets on. Perhaps one would say this movie deceives you as to what it is about on its first impression, but if you are in the mood for some mental exercise, it is quite fun to figure out by reading the movie cues and clues. If that is not your cup of tea, you might as well skip it altogether. Casual audiences should definitely abstain. Very good performances from the main cast, specially Jake Gyllenhaal. Definitely worth a first and second look.
That will do for now.