Not much else could be expected from a film in which both of the leading roles are Jake Gyllenhaal. In Nightcrawler, the film’s commentary on the corrupt nature of today’s media worked well with Gyllenhaal’s lack of expression in the face of obvious moral misdeeds. Yet here, in a film about two men who become obsessed with their doppleganger, his frequent lack of expression reads as poor acting and his attempts to convey strong emotion makes him look a bit like a muppet. See below, in an argument about his frequent cheating on his six-month pregnant wife.
Saramago’s Nobel Prize winning work, Blindness, features both aspects of feminism and sexism as the hero of the novel is a woman, however she is continually referred to by the title “Doctor’s Wife.” There are no names assigned to anyone in the novel, but unlike other characters, who are described by physical attributes or role, she has no independent title, she is simply someone else’s wife. These elements of sexism have carried into the storyline of The Double, and is magnified by the producers of Enemy.
The most problematic aspect of the film is its two clear depictions of rape. These are never called rape (in the movie or on the IMDB plot synopsis), never addressed as rape, and never mentioned in any way after the fact as all other characters in the film are just satellite characters tending to the needs of Jake Gyllenhaal. The first instance, Adam Bell attempts to initiate sex with his sleeping girlfriend. The second instance, Anthony Claire tries to trick Adam’s girlfriend Mary into sleeping with him by pretending to be his double. He is given away by the tan line of his wedding ring, at which point they begin arguing and he denies everything, heavily implying she’s being irrational. So rape and gas lighting.
When he dies in a car crash during their argument, it’s unfulfilling as she dies as well.
Meet the only non-white character in the entire film, “Security Guard.” Out of the film’s 90-minute run time, he’s on screen for about thirty seconds.
Save four scenes, this entire film is shot in a sepia tint. This becomes most apparent in a dark scene, but is noticeable even in the bright daytime shots which makes the characters’ skin look a bit green.
It’s unclear whether the effect is intended to be unsettling, somehow reflective of smoggy weather, or if it is intended to make the film seem darker and hyperrealistic. All in all it was a brave choice that came across as just unappealing. There were no dramatic colors in the entire film, it was just one long sepia sequence after another that would normally be reserved to indicate a time long since passed.
At times it seems like the complete lack of interesting details in the shots is intentional; forcing the viewer to direct all of their attention to the actors, like in the warehouse scenes of Reservoir Dogs. However, there’s much less happening onscreen in Enemy than any Tarantino film.
While some shots do seem to be played for emotive effect, like the above which plays with the concept of dark as evil and light as good, the shots often seem dull. It doesn’t help that the most emotional Gyllenhaal ever gets throughout the entire movie is this:
Throughout the film there’s recurring imagery of spiders that could have been subtly clever in a novel but terrorizes the viewer film form. This failed attempt to translate from one medium to another makes it obvious that this story was at one point, based on a novel; More specifically, The Double by Portuguese author José Saramago.
The story itself is interesting because of its disorienting nature, the questions it poses then doesn’t immediately answer. When the history teacher Adam Bell first sees his double, Anthony Claire the viewer is left wondering what kind of story this is– clones? Long lost twins? Insanity? As the movie progresses, the viewer is forced to wait for an answer to end the suspense, and it just never comes. Reasonable doubt is cast on each potential; Anthony’s mother denies having twins, the only thing suggesting mad science is the recurring presence of a giant tarantula but that’s much too vague, and other characters seem to understand Adam and Anthony as two separate individuals for reasons we can get to later, which seems to work against the insanity storyline.
The two become obsessed with each other in their own ways. It seems to be a shock factor for Adam Bell, who quickly tries to abandon the situation once he realizes that they are identical, with the similarity down to a matching scar on their stomachs. Anthony seems amused when Adam becomes scared, and immediately blackmails his double so that he can leverage the situation to sleep with Adam’s girlfriend.
In the beginning of the film we are shown Gyllenhaal, later to be revealed as Anthony, present in a high end, dimly lit club where a naked woman sets a tray on the floor, lifts the lid, and lets out a tarantula. The closing shot of this scene is her heel hovering above as if to crush it. Later, presumably in a dream sequence, a giant spider walks over the skyscrapers of Toronto.
Anthony Claire and Adam Bell’s girlfriend Mary die in a car crash during an argument. Adam Bell, pretending to be Anthony, finds a key sealed in an envelope in Anthony’s jacket pocket. He immediately behaves less like the socially awkward and skittish history teacher and more like his double, as he tells Anthony’s wife that he’ll be going out that night as she’s walking into the bedroom. When he walks into their shared bedroom, a giant tarantula sits against the wall. This would be a fantastic ending. To a novel.