Bigmouth Reviews Again: Enemy

Bigmouth Reviews Again: Enemy

 ★☆☆☆☆ Political
★☆☆☆☆Visual 
★★★☆☆Plotline

 

 

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.

Screenshot 2016-08-03 18.09.03

Political

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.

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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.

 

Visual

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.

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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.

Screenshot 2016-08-04 00.08.14

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:

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‘Atta Boy!

Plotline
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.

Screenshot 2016-08-03 23.39.26

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.

 

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This Tragedy is Not Terrorism: Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida had been filled with over 300 patrons at the time of the shooting. At this time, the swelling knot of dancers and drinkers would have been steadily growing as the clock ticked ever nearer to closing time. With all clubs, there is expected to be a gradual ebb and flow and this space was likely to be no different. Near 2AM the crowd that remains tends to be composed of devoted regulars, young men and women hoping the night will never end, professionals who have gotten a bit too tipsy and lost track of time. There’s always a certain kind of hope for what will come next near the end of the closing hours of a club that is offset with the inevitable drowsiness that comes with a long night of dancing, drinking, and an occasional narcotic. For much of the night this would have seemed a normal scene. Until close to closing time at 2AM.

It was at this time that the gunman, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, acted. Having made the hateful decision to claim the lives of so many people, having had so much rage within him as to take it out on a mass of strangers, is near beyond comprehension. He had at his disposal an AR-15-style assault rifle, and a handgun. He was an American citizen. He took the lives of 50 people. Within this group of people were likely individuals he knew or at the very least had seen before several times in the city.

This is a brutal act of violence, one which America has seen more and more often throughout the years. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Elliot Roger’s rampage, the West Virginia sniper. The names and the locations change but the situation continues to occur. An unstable young man, or men, develops a sense of rage against the world, and instead of seeking mental health services to identifythe root causes of his hatred, seeks out a gun.

So why is it that this particular attack has been labelled a “terror attack” by The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times and Fox? Why not a hate crime due to its having taken place in a gay nightclub by an American citizen who was found with no explosives and whose crime has not been claimed on jihadi forums? Assistant special agent Ron Hopper claims that they “have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism), but right now we can’t say definitely.” Considering there has been no evidence released linking the individual to any extremist groups I would agree with Hopper that he indeed cannot say that this is an act of Islamic terrorism.

Because the only thing that links this act of violence to Islamic terrorism in the eyes of the legal system is the fact that Mateen was not a white man. The fact that he was of Afghani descent is the only thing that has directed authorities and media groups to presume that he was a terrorist on the basis of his name alone. Even his father has released a statement claiming that his son was not motivated by religion, but grew upset after having witnessed an intimate kiss between two men. Mateen is guilty of extreme prejudice, but he’s not a terrorist.

American citizens are being lied to by the local media on the basis of racial misrepresentation and this is just the most recent occurrence in a long history of similar situations. Was Elliot Roger, who was from the UK and at college in America temporarily,  who shot several young students at a college accused of being a terrorist who was resentful the American way of life? He was not, nor would the media be able to paint such a portrait of him because the American public has not been preconditioned to accept such an accusation lobbied at a white man. However the public has been fed a stream of information in the form of news articles, film, comics, magazines, etc that portray “terrorists” as primarily men of Southeast Asian descent.

This portrayal is damaging, and it has real effects on the lives of countless individuals. We as people look to the media to see an image of the world as it is, and we take this information in regardless of its basis in fact, sometimes knowing the representation is false, and this representation given to us by media sources combines with personal experience and becomes our truth. This is not an article attempting to minimize the pain of the friends and families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, but rather to problematize the accusation of terrorism in this instance, and to bring to focus this unjust characterization because this too has impact on a large group of people. In the wake of such a tragic occurrence, we should be in collective mourning, and identifying ways to prevent this from happening again.

To make claims of terrorism on an unaffiliated man of Afghani descent is a distraction from the reality of this situation. Because if we as a nation are collectively afraid of the colored ghost of terrorism, we will focus on that, rather than identifying the reasons behind an act of violence and developing workable solutions to repair them, even at the short-term expense of the nation as a whole. So let us mourn the loss of 50 lives, and focus on how to take steps towards preventing mass shootings in America, and let us not create more victims in the name of patriotism.

Embracing Isolation: Cult Logic in Hulu Original’s “The Path”

Embracing Isolation: Cult Logic in Hulu Original’s “The Path”

Hulu’s original series “The Path” contains all of the classic elements of the television genre that started with “Weeds” and carried on with “Breaking Bad.” There’s a pitiable yet charismatic leader repressing some extremely dark personality traits, marital problems, illegal activity catching the attention of a police officer with a rigid moral code.

Very little about the show itself is new, but one of its gems is its representation of cult mentality through its gradual exploration of the fictional Meyerist Movement, an isolated society whose member’s interactions with the outside world are almost exclusively limited to a single one-liner: “We’re not a cult, we’re a movement!”

But the most interesting portrayal of the Meyerists is not their perception of themselves but of the framework of their organization. The Guardian lists three primary elements of cult worship:

1] The existence of a charismatic leader who progressively becomes central to the group as an object of worship.

2] An extensive process of indoctrination (read: brainwashing) which is meant to remove all doubt as to the goals and righteousness of the cult.

3] Exploitation of members by the group’s leader or ruling elite.

While the fictional Meyerist Movement does possess each of these qualifications, somehow its intentions still seem noble in some aspects. Shipping a heroine addicted teenager to Peru under the cover of the night to kick the drug habit with an ayahuasca trip of a lifetime never seemed so laudable.

The positive effects Meyerism has on its members is mentioned compulsively throughout the series as we watch the characters self comfort. As a collection of people desperate to make sense of the world, their fears are not focused on the leadership of the cult, but the concept of leaving. An already valid fear that is dramatized by the doctrinarian of the group which indicates that ex-members are to be excommunicated by everyone still in the Meyerist Movement.

It is not fears of what the leadership of the movement could potentially do in retaliation, it is the fear of being alone, of losing the feeling of being a part of a shared vision that keeps members prisoner. And it’s this exploration of a human need for community that’s what keeps this show full of caricatures interesting, because it’s uncomfortable in its truth.

The insidiousness of cult movements does not always lie in the fact that they pose a significant threat to its membership, in some cases its that they could give meaning to someone’s life through the facilitation of shared community and then suddenly take it away.