'Enemy' May Be The Weirdest Film Of The Year, But Don't Let That Scare You Away

By James Jay Edwards
Released: March 14, 2014
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Enemy tells the story of a university lecturer named Adam (Gyllenhaal) who is nearing the end of a relationship with his girlfriend Mary (Laurent). One night, while watching a film, Adam spots a minor actor who looks just like him. Consumed by the desire to meet his double, Adam tracks down Anthony, an actor living with his pregnant wife Helen (Gadon) and engages him in a complex and dangerous struggle. The film is a haunting and provocative psychosexual thriller about duality and identity, where in the end only one man will survive.

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Film Review
Last year, director Denis Villeneuve was behind one of the most powerful and disturbing films to come out in a long time. So, how does he follow up Prisoners? He grabs Prisoners star Jake Gyllenhaal and makes Enemy.

Enemy stars Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell, a college history professor who is stuck in a rut, teaching his students by day and spending unhappy time with his girlfriend, Mary (Melanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds), by night. One evening, on a recommendation from a work colleague, Adam rents a movie and notices that one of the actors, a man named Daniel Saint Claire, looks exactly like him. Through a lot of research and a little luck, Adam tracks down his doppelganger and learns that his real name is Anthony (also played by Gyllenhaal) and that he lives with his pregnant wife, Helen (A Dangerous Method's Sarah Gadon) in the same city as Adam. When the two men meet, they discover that there is more to the mystery than just a physical resemblance; the guys seem to be exact duplicates of each other. Both men react differently as they try and figure out what is happening and why they have been brought together.

With Enemy, Denis Villeneuve has come up with one of the weirdest movies that one could ever hope to see. The script was adapted from Jose Saramago's novel "The Double" by screenwriter Javier Gullon (Invader), and although Gullon keeps the skeleton of Saramago's story intact, he takes liberties with the details, turning what was a creepy, haunting mystery into a head-scratching science fiction film. It's a highly intriguing film, if a bit scattered, and one that slowly sets the viewer up for a handful of visceral shocks. The buildup is a masterful exercise in tension and suspense, and the entire film is extremely engrossing. As a psychological thriller, Enemy is extremely effective.

Then comes the ending. There are a couple of scenes in the film - not really even scenes, more like shots - where the viewer kind of wonders what they're seeing. Then the very last shot, literally the last fifteen seconds of the film, goes completely off the rails. And it comes out of nowhere. And it doesn't feel like an ending; it feels like the third act should just be starting, yet the closing credits roll. It all ends so fast, but it leaves the audience with a lot to think about.

In Prisoners, Villeneuve flirted with the ambiguity of right and wrong by making his heroes perform unspeakable actions, turning them into justifiable villains. The ambiguity is still there in Enemy, but it's not a moral thing; it's just a vague sense that there are no protagonists or antagonists, only characters. The conflict in Enemy is present, but it's always shifting, constantly morphing to add to the confusion. Enemy is not a popcorn movie, but it's not high cinema, either. It lies somewhere in between, watching and waiting for someone to take a look at it.
For Enemy, director of photography Nicolas Bolduc (War Witch) uses a very neutral color palette that is dominated by grays and yellows, and the picture is stylistically lit in a way that makes it look like only available light was used. All of this results in a very natural, warm, and flat look, effectively summarizing the humdrum lives of the characters. Much of the action is captured through steadicams and handhelds, giving the film a very raw and unrehearsed feel, almost looking like a documentary. The doubling of Gyllenhaal looks to have been done through a combination of several methods: digital compositing, slick editing, and good old-fashioned sitcom split-screening. There are few visual effects, a fact which works to the film's advantage; when they are used, it's a punch to the audience's eyeballs, as in the very last shot. Overall, Bolduc's photography is subtle enough to not draw attention to itself, which is all that a film like Enemy needs; nothing special, just support the story.
The soundtrack to Enemy goes a long way towards setting up the feeling of dread and hopelessness that the film conveys so well. The score was composed by the musical team of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Simon Killer), and it's made up mostly of sparse, haunting single instrument melodies that are so simple yet completely fitting. It's amazing how much more raw emotion that a lone cello can convey over an entire orchestra. The music to Enemy fully exploits that fact. It's not the type of score that the audience is going to be humming the entire drive home, but it will make them feel unease and discomfort while watching the film, all without sounding dissonant or cacophonous. Controlling a mood like that is a wonderful gift, and the musical score to Enemy has it.

Release Date
March 14, 2014
Production Designer
Music Score