DIR: Denis Villeneuve • WRI: Javier Gullón • PRO: M.A. Faura, Niv Fichman • DOP: Nicolas Bolduc • ED: Matthew Hannam • DES: Patrice Vermette • MUS: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans • CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon
Enemy follows history lecturer Adam (Gyllenhaal), who, when recommended a film by a colleague, spots one of the actors, Anthony (also Gyllenhaal), is his exact double and tries to track him down.
After working together on 2013’s Prisoners, director Denis Villeneuve brings Jake Gyllenhaal to his next film, Enemy, based on José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double.
Adam is a timid, reclusive type trying to engage with his equally withdrawn girlfriend, Mary (Laurent), while Anthony is a modestly successful actor who’s soon to be a father with his suspicious wife, Helen (Gadon).
Adam, while lecturing his students, talks about recurring themes of power, control and chaos throughout history – themes which are also emblematic of Villeneuve’s film. Adam refers to the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel and its his ideas of conflicting opposites and potential reconciliation which underpins Adam and Anthony’s tentative relationship.
Spiders are a recurring motif throughout Villeneuve’s film, as Adam and Anthony are caught in each other’s webs of escalating levels of deceit and control.
Gyllenhaal is always a watchable presence and the task of playing two such diametrically opposed characters in Enemy is admirably achieved. The focus is on him in every scene, either as Adam or Anthony, and he keeps the audience engrossed from start to finish. Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon are both excellent as they try to make sense of the crossfire they find themselves in.
Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc bathes every frame in a kind of sepia-tinged haze. In the external shots, it feels like a polluted smog which then bleeds into every interior.
Villeneuve’s film does well to highlight both Adam and Anthony’s respective isolation and takes its time before putting them in a room together. Enemy is a slow burn which doesn’t feel like it gives you much by the end. But it’s a film that stays with you, and with a repeat viewing you may begin to make sense of what Villeneuve is trying to achieve.
The opening title card quotes the original author, Saramago: “Chaos is order yet undeciphered”. Much like the quote, the film remains hard to decipher. But given Adam’s lecture about Karl Marx’s idea of history repeating itself, once as tragedy and then as farce, perhaps a second viewing will reap more rewards.
Although if you have any trepidation regarding arachnids, a second viewing is probably best avoided!
16 (See IFCO for details)
Enemy is released 2nd December.