EMINE – ‘Enemy’: The dark depths of the psyche

‘Enemy’: The dark depths of the psycheWhat an incredibly strange and incomprehensible, yet indisputably powerful and seductive, film “Enemy” is. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s second collaboration with A-list Hollywood talent Jake Gyllenhaal after “Prisoners” takes the viewer on an atmospheric journey into a universe that recalls early David Lynch and David Cronenberg. “Enemy” is based on Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago’s “The Double,” but readers of the book should not look for similarities between the screen adaptation and the book except for existentialist themes.The setting is Toronto, but not the Toronto you would find in the “most comfortable places to live in the world” lists. This is a city shown in gray tones, overtaken by lifeless skyscrapers and unwelcoming but organized streets that look more like the setting of a George Orwell novel. Within this ultra post-modernity we are introduced to reclusive history academic Adam (Gyllenhaal), who leads a sedentary and isolated life in his small condo. He is intermittently visited by his amicable girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent), whose facial expressions ache for deeper romantic intimacy but have succumbed to frustration. Meanwhile, Adam seems to be experiencing strange, dream-like visions from another life: the images of a pregnant woman and an elite men’s club.One night while Adam is watching a film, he suddenly notices an extra in the background. The actor, named Anthony Claire, looks exactly like himself. He goes out of his way to find the man through a stint of undercover detective work, only to find himself in a downward spiral that forms a nightmare in which Adam might have to question his sanity.When the two men meet, it is as if they embody the trope of the good and evil twins. Anthony clearly wants to take aantage of the situation and blackmails Adam into swapping places for one night so he can spend time with Adam’s girlfriend, while Adam will spend time with Anthony’s pregnant and depressed wife, Helen (Sarah Gadon, in a harrowing performance). What is even worse is that Adam’s mother (Isabella Rossellini) denies that he could have had a twin and that he should give up his fantasies of being a third-rate actor. Is Anthony Adam’s alter ego? Or does Anthony really exist? If Anthony really does exist, then how can Adam explain the same photograph of Helen that they both own?Do not try to understand this narrative with basic logic, as you will never find any comforting explanation. But then again, it is obvious that Villeneuve’s ambitions for audience immersion unapologetically lie elsewhere, most notably in leaving the viewer with a visceral aftertaste of uncertainty, the fear of the loss or confusion of one’s identity and the repressed emotions of the human soul. This is an existentialist foray expressed in a suspenseful atmosphere that slowly and meticulously draws the viewer into a dreamscape that she masochistically enjoys and never stops being absorbed in. Perhaps the intellectual background of this film will remain too abstract for some, yet Villeneuve’s brilliant framing and eerie juxtapositions of images will not leave one’s mind for a very long time.The shocking and abrupt finale will leave further unanswered questions, yet this risky decision fully serves the film’s premise and tone while proving that the director is adamantly uncompromising in his style.Gyllenhaal’s performance deserves much praise, as he fully projects through his acting the complexities of his characters’ motivations and desires in a way that the screenplay’s structure might not have allowed another actor. His performance builds on the story and creates an empathetic link for the audience.“Enemy” perhaps notes that we are our worst enemies, but the film is not just an attempt to define human psychology in one sentence it succeeds in doing much more by conveying a feeling of unease that spreads into our gut, causing us to question and confront all that we might think about ourselves. This could be Villeneuve’s most extreme and best film to date, as he continues to present a cinematic style that shows the intensity of unrest in unsafe worlds. For those who enjoy a different kind of cinema, this is not to be missed.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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