“Chaos is order yet undeciphered.”
“What the hell did I just watch?” That was my initial thought once it had finished. Enemy is pure surrealist cinema with deep undercurrents flowing in Totalitarianism. Sorry if that sounds a bit pretentious, but it’s about as accurate a way of describing the film as I could think of. You might hate it, you might love it, and you might be so damn confused that you just don’t give a shit. That’s okay. Enemy clearly wants to divide its audience and mess with our heads. You could find answers in Freud’s work The Ego and the Id or in something as recognizable as Orwell’s 1984. I dunno, maybe I’m just a sucker for stuff like this, because it had me thinking for hours. And a conclusion has yet to be found.
Following a deeply disturbing opening sequence involving one of the many representations of spiders in the film, we cut to Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal). By day he is an associate professor of history in Toronto and by night he’s a hermit. Mary (Melanie Laurent) is his beautiful and unhappy girlfriend who comes over nightly for drinks and sex. Adam’s life is as much a cycle as the history he so passionately teaches to his students. It’s very clear something is awry with the world we’re seeing, that somehow Adam isn’t really living at all, or at least not in the conventional sense. To be honest, I still don’t know for certain.
A colleague recommends a surprisingly professional looking locally produced film to Adam because that’s as much as he’s willing to interact. Adam rents Where There’s a Will There’s a Way. It interrupts his routine, he closes his laptop, and goes to sleep. A dream (this is where the surrealism kicks in) shocks him awake. In the movie is a background third rate actor who looks exactly like him. The resemblance is uncanny. Despite Mary’s misgivings about his strange new obsession, Adam searches out his doppelganger named Anthony Claire.
I’m interested to know what drew director Denis Villeneuve to this project. His 2010 drama Incendies is one of the best foreign films released in the past ten years. Prisoners, his criminally under seen effort from last year, in my opinion was the most realistically brutal film, physically and emotionally, to come around in a long time. Enemy is just as nightmarish as those two but it never creates a definite world for us to place the characters in. We’re left questioning, grasping for any shred of evidence to help build a case. No matter how good the detective, how promising the circumstance, some cases just aren’t destined to be solved. That’s the harsh reality.
If not for the early Oscar buzz he’s receiving for the upcoming Nightcrawler, I’d call this Gyllenhaal’s career best performance. Anthony is the twisted and plotting leather clad man to Adam’s visibly depressed and reticent self donning non tailored suits. It’s his show and he dazzles as both characters. The film’s landscape is purposefully modern yet distinctly different. What Villeneuve is able to create with such an ambiguous storyline is truly astounding. It’s spooky, mysterious, chilling work, aided by a score that’s as cold and unnerving as the touch of a doctor’s stethoscope. Movies like Enemy aren’t meant to be loved. They’re there to be self-reflective, to leave holes that we fill with parts of ourselves. We might as well be the kids who finished last in the science fair. Fatigue will set in and you won’t know exactly what took place, but you’ll still feel relieved to have a participatory ribbon pinned on your board.
“This is a pattern that repeats itself throughout history.”
Rating: 4 out of 5