Film Reviews

ENEMY

By • Apr 6th, 2014 •

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ENEMY is an experiment into the dark realm of one’s haunting reality, a terrifying psychosis of a professor’s mundane existence. It’s a bold undertaking by director Denis Villeneuve to make such an experimental film with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Professor Adam is yammering to a class of boring repetitiveness, followed by mental and verbal reclusiveness in a yellow-lit barren apartment served nocturnal offerings by his girlfriend. A colleague’s mention of a film is the catalyst for his ensuing nightmare. He spots his double in the film. Motivated by this visual disturbance, he searches for and finds his identical being. The actor’s stylized abode is shared with his pregnant wife. The initial meeting between the two induces a deep dislike, a mirror into an alternate reality, and a step towards one’s demise.

Gyllenhaall’s Adam may be suffering from schizophrenia with delusions of paranoia and persecution. His double, Anthony, is aggressive and sexually louche. Forget yin and yang and that opposites attract. This set of look-alikes wholeheartedly embraces the Pauli Exclusion Principle: the quantum mechanical principle that no two identical fermions may occupy the same quantum state. They are on a mission to stay apart and derail one another. Both share similar looking female companions and both view women as badgering and as objects of sexual gratification. The professor speaks of dictatorship. The actor’s time is an issue. There is mistrust. Isabella Rossellini’s role is of a harping mother.

Most are familiar with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis where the central character transforms into an insect. In this case, it is neither Adam nor Anthony who are transformed. The use of the spider as a representation for women is significant. It represents entrapment and loathing.

Traditionally, a doppelgänger is a person’s paranormal double bringing ill fortune. There have been multiple manifestations and reincarnations in cinema and literature of this German folklore. Russian literature’s shining example of this decent into madness is The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. To experience a double feature-filled harrowing mind-bend is to follow this story with Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman. THE ROCKET, Kim Mordaunt’s film, explores the Laos tribal culture which deems an identical twin an omen of misfortune prompting its death. DEAD RINGERS by David Cronenberg features two gynecologists who cannot be distinguished from one another. ENEMY is not intended for an audience pleased with movies such as DOPPELGANGER starring Drew Barrymore. ENEMY is experimental, which mandates patience and an appreciation for alternative modes of storytelling. Popcorn eating and soda slurping moviegoers who debate over the finer qualities of Vin Diesel’s acting skills will curse at the screen and burn the box office if refunds are not given.

Accolades and talent pooled together to create ENEMY. It’s based on the book The Double, by Nobel Prize-winning novelist José Saramago. Villeneuve’s film, INCENDIES, was nominated in the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Film category. Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal previously worked on PRISONERS, which also appeared alongside ENEMY at the Toronto International Film Festival. Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting abilities successfully embody two different characters. Unfortunately, the film is not wholly reflective of these attributes and just misses the mark – not by much.

Registering the most gripes is the lackluster production quality. It resembles a two- man operation as seen in AN AMERICAN HAUNTING. Let’s not rave about the cinematography. It’s conceivable that this was a handheld high-end consumer camera. Degradation of quality of an expensive camera system can easily be done by amateurs. The color balance was not corrected to achieve the yellow tint in Adam’s house. Shall we revisit film school and discuss sodium and mercury lamps and their effect on camera? The end credits shock the mind. Aside from the special effects and the car scene, this really could have been created by a handful of people. The crew list is extensive. And just why was there a physiotherapist on set?

Since this is not for a general movie audience, it is encouraging to see talent at the big budget level take a risk into the surreal. Cinema would benefit from more risk. It’s not mindless filler as easily as forgotten as the overpriced junk from the concession stand. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the ENEMY press screening, the attendees made a hasty exit without any exchange of words, which is unusual. What a powerful effect on the audience. Hugh Heffner tweeted that he was hosting a showing of ENEMY at the Playboy mansion. Wonder how it went.

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