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'Enemy': What The Hell Is This Film About?
Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a history teacher who lives every day the same. There is a repetitiveness in his life that leaves him bored. After watching a film recommended by his co-workers, Adam notices a particular actor in the film, Anthony Claire (also Jake Gyllenhaal), who resembles himself. Adam begins to search for his doppelganger and soon finds where he lives. A strange self-discovery journey ensues after Adam comes in contact with Anthony and his wife.
Honestly, I think that is as much of the plot as I will reveal because if you have not seen this film, you don't want to know anymore. 'Enemy' is a dream-like dive into the subconscious and the fear of coming to terms with who you are that will leave you both amazed and confused.
The film debuted in September of 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival before getting a theatrical release in March of 2014. The film made about 3 million dollars internationally and was met with relatively positive reviews. However, it only made sixteen thousand dollars in its U.S. opening weekend.
'Enemy' was written by Javier Gullón and is loosely based on José Saramago's 2002 novel 'The Double'. Director, Dennis Villeneuve, does not shy from telling mind-bending stories that are told in a non-linear fashion and 'Enemy' is perfect for his storytelling techniques.
Before Gyllenhaal was cast in the lead role, both Javier Bardem and Christain Bale were considered for the part. However, once Gyllenhaal's name came up in discussion, there was no question as to who should play this dual role. I mean, c'mon. It's Jake freaking Gyllenhaal.
The filming was integral to the storytelling of this film as the filmmakers wanted specific details to add to the themes within the story. 'Enemy' has a certain filming style and color scheme to depict the tension from the story and make it something that the audience and sees and feels. The struggle of identity that occurs throughout this film is reflected by everything from the costumes to the color of Adam's apartment.
Director: Dennis Villeneuve
There is a common style when it comes to Dennis Villeneuve's filmmaking. I always wondered what it is because his films can be slow-paced with excellent character development. His stories feel real. The characters feel real. The film feels real. That's exactly what makes his style so unique. It is a mix between David Lynch and David Fincher. Villeneuve becomes very intimate with his films and characters. With his magic touch, he rids the television screen and it feels as if you are standing in the moment with his characters in real-time.
Like much of Villeneuve's films, such as 'Arrival', 'Enemy' is told with a non-linear storytelling technique. Villeneuve is obsessed with imagery and telling the story through his images, rather than outright describing to the audience what is happening. This leaves behind a string of puzzles in which the viewer must decipher in order to make sense of the story. For some, this might be confusing and unenjoyable. However, it is visual poetry at best. This sort of filmmaking leaves an impact on the audience, making them question what they just watched. Instead, of watching the film for what it is, a film like 'Enemy' will have the viewer thinking back on the film for hours after the credits have rolled. And that is exactly what films are about. It's about stories. The most prominent stories leave an impact on their audience. It has the audience discussing the film. When you leave a film and ask somebody, "What did you think this meant?" It can lead to an hour-long discussion on different theories. Just as the imagery of spiders in 'Enemy', the audience surely has to find the deeper meaning behind the film. Villeneuve leaves behind the clues, but it is up to you to figure out what it is truly about.
"Chaos Is Order Yet Undeciphered"
The best aspect of Villeneuve's films is that of the characters. I have yet to see a film of his that does not have excellent characters with deep emotions. What makes the most memorable characters is when the audience can see a piece of themselves inside of them. This is exactly what drives the direction of Villeneuve. He is obsessed with anger and fear and how those emotions drive people. These are clear emotions within his filmography. The question that needs to be answered by the characters is "who is control of yourself?" Who are you? Are you controlled by your past self? This is a deep underlying theme that can make a film have that much more of an impact.
In 'Enemy', we see Adam controlled by his fears and this leads him onto a journey of his subconscious to figure out who is in control of his life. This is not a character that is bland. On the surface this film may feel boring and slow, but if you take the time to see past this, you will find a deep film about the human psyche.
Who Is In Control?
As I said before, a film must make an audience wonder. 'Enemy' will have you sitting through the end credits- not to actually watch the list of names roll down your screen, but because your mind is actually thinking.
If you are like me, you will take a look inside of your own self. I sat and wondered who is in control of me? Is it my past experiences that drive my present self? In a lot of ways, I think that everybody is driven by their past self to a point. I think everybody is driven by the fears and anger within their lives, which may stem from their past or present.
In any case, you can find a piece of yourself in Gyllenhaal's characters in this film. There is an aspect of your life that is depicted by the characters. Just as in real life, the film is dark and grim with a dream-like element that propels it from being just an average film.
Not to mention Gyllenhaal has a knack for portraying everything from a homosexual cowboy to Mysterio. He can literally be in any film and it will automatically be better.
All of this accumulates to a dark film with a ray of hope shining through the darkness. And that is why 'Enemy' is an underrated gem that is not talked about enough.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on May 25, 2021:
Exhaustive and interesting.