Saturday, October 4, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: Enemy

2013, Denis Villeneuve (Maelstrom, Incendies) -- download

Double. Doppelganger. Evil Twin. It must be unnerving to look into the eyes of someone and see yourself staring back. The mirror is within your realm of control; you can just look away. But to unexpectedly find your own face worn by a low grade actor in a B movie would be way beyond strange. Adam Bell is a teacher at U of T, a man who constantly teaches the same lecture over and over, one of history and totalitarian societies, Romans and Circuses. He is bored, bored of his life and his girlfriend and the dusky city of Toronto he lives in. But when, out of that simple boredom, he watches a movie recommended by a fellow boring teacher, he catches himself playing the bellhop. And boredom changes into an obsession with finding out who this double is.

This is an artistic movie, well shot full of wide scenes that make Toronto urbane yet chilling, institutional. Like Prisoners before it, it is quiet and bleak, even in the brightest sun, the skylines tainted with brown smog. There is an underlying tension to everything and every interaction in the movie. Adam meets his double, and its is not enlightening but scares him. Daniel St Claire, the stage name of Anthony, seems to be everything Adam is not -- confident, wealthy, stylish and intimidating. They are not twins, they are not uncannily alike -- they are exact doubles, down to matching scars. But this movie is not about finding out why, its about becoming aware of something more in the world, and being terrified of it. Villeneuve does such a good job of keeping this tension tight as a guide wire, while seeding us with curiosity.

When I see a movie that is enigmatic, as drawn from symbolism, I like to pretend everything is exactly what we see. They are not scenes of giant spiders because the spiders suggest we are caught in webs of control that we are unaware of. I like to envision a true web, an alternate Toronto that is under the dark, smoke tainted control of an unseen force. That these forces are playing with Adam, or perhaps Anthony, by giving him something to upset his life. There is a scene of the cityscape, with a gargantuan spider in the style of Louise Bourgeois's sculptures, roaming the horizon. It is merely cinematic (merely?) but my scifi mind scans the plot possibilities, seeking evil overlords that ride spiders, playing with their inhabitants who are wriggling flies in their web. If Villeneuve wants to conjure spiders as a thinly veiled comment on how we live urban lives, he can do so, but I see things more plainly, and likely more terrifyingly.