Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Enemy": Jake Gyllenhaal plays a double of himself

Denis Villeneuve rehired Jake Gyllenhaal to play a spare copy if himself in “Enemy”, a film that seems like a screenwriting gimmick even if it, once again, borrows from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.  And this time the French Canadian director borrows from David Lynch, Shane Carruth and even William S. Burroughs.  The film, shot in Toronto mostly among sterile high-rise apartment communities, in brown sepia that is almost colorless (perhaps teaching us to experience genetic color blindness) really does seem like a kind of quick baptism.  Toronto is often shown in a gray-brown haze that looks like smog in China.
As the film opens, Gyllenhall is playing Adam, a history professor lecturing his sparsely populated 101 section on how dictators like Vladimir Putin get away with it.  He has a comfortable life at home, grading essay tests, but has somehow lost interest in his girl friend.  A friend recommend that he rent some movies to get up some fantasy and interest.  He has never particularly like movies or fiction before.  But the first one he rents (why not subscribe to Netflix?) seems to be an 18th Century Piece (maybe even “The Prince and the Showgirl”) and he sees an actor playing a swashbuckling double of himself.  He analyzes the DVD to identify the actor, one Anthony Claire, and soon tracks him down.
There’s tension and suspicion of stalking, and pretty soon Anthony thinks Adam has designs on his pregnant wife.  Maybe he just wants progeny.  They finally agree to meet, and they have practically identical bodies.  (The film could do more on this score than it does.)  
The first obvious question is, of course, could they be identical twins.  Adam’s mother (Isabella Rossillini) says she’ll pretend he never asked.  Pretty soon, it seems as though there may be other people around with doubles.  For one thing, the girl friend and wife look at lot alike (though only one is pregnant and both are played by different actresses. Melane Laurent and Sarah Gadon). Then the doorman seems to have an identity crisis brewing.  To say more would be to spoil things, but David Lynch ideas, right out of Twin Peaks, may carry the day.
The official site from A24, E-one and Pathe is here 

The brooding modern chamber music score is by Danny Bensi and Sauder Jurriaans.  Given the closeups on the characters, I wondered if the film really should have been shot 2.35:1.  Most of the time, you know which Jake is on stage. 

I remember being told, at age 20, that I had a tendency to make enemies.  An odd memory. 

I saw this in the best auditorium at the West End Cinema in Washington DC Saturday evening, before a fair crowd (not sold out).  The presentation was sharp, but there was a recurring three-beat clattering noise sequence from the right side of the auditorium for the first half;  I didn’t know if that was in the soundtrack.  

Toronto picture attribution for Wikipedia. My only visit was in July 1982.

A couple of other films to remember, unrelated: "Enemy Mine" (1985), about a standoff between an astronaut and an alien after crash landing (Dennis Quaid and Lou Gosset Jr., by Wolfgang Petersen; saw in Dallas; and "Enemy at the Gates" (2001, Jean-Jacque Annaud) about the Battle of Stalingrad with Jude Law and Ed Harris as Russian and German snipers.

Compare also to "The Double" on May 16, 2014. 

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