Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review of ENEMY: Of Doppelgangers and Spiders

July 31, 2014

Adam Bell is a lonely history professor in a Toronto university with a boring repetitive routine in life. Each day after school, he goes home and gets visits from his girlfriend. One day, he was watching a movie and was surprised to see an actor there named Daniel Saint Claire who looked exactly like him. This leads Adam on a obsessive quest to seek out his doppelganger, drawing him into a swirling vortex of his own psychological delusions.

"Enemy," as envisioned and directed by Denis Villenueve, is not an easy movie to watch. It is very very quiet and unfolds very very slowly. Its running time is only an hour and a half, but it feels interminable due to its glacial pace. There is a lot of strange imagery, particularly a recurring reference to spiders and women, which will make many a viewer scratch his head in bewilderment.

However, I have to say it is riveting. You will want to know how Adam confronts his double and if he can figure out his confusion. You will want to know how the teacher's girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent) and the actor's pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) figure into this complex web. The ever-enigmatic Isabella Rosselini even makes a crucial appearance as Adam's mother. The build-up during the last fifteen minutes was intense and puzzling at the same time. It all builds up to a final scene that will make you exclaim "WTH was that?!"

Jake Gyllenhaal is an A-list actor with big commercial films like "Prince of Persia" and "Love and Other Drugs". However, he also has some serious and more cerebral film projects, such as "Brokeback Mountain" (where he was nominated for an Oscar) and just last year "Prisoners" (also directed by Villeneuve). Here in "Enemy", Gyllenhaal again impresses us with a sublime double performance as the mousy teacher Adam and the cocky actor Daniel, upon which the entire drama of the film revolves.

This is again one of those films which most audiences will find weird and baffling. If you are patient enough to reach the end, you will either hate yourself for wasting 90 minutes of your life, or you will be intrigued enough to contemplate on the film's deeper messages and symbolisms. The quote at the beginning of the film is a challenge to the viewer, "Chaos is order yet undeciphered." Will you be able to figure out what this conundrum of a film is about? 6/10.

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