Country: Canada, Spain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cinematography: Nicolas Bolduc
ENEMY is Denis Villeneuve’s back-to-back psychological drama with PRISONERS (2013), treads the water of a doppelgänger sub-genre, it is a neatly gripping head-scratcher hoisted by its jaw-dropping anti-climax (literally the flabbergasted final scene), and confidently beckons for repeated viewings, running succinctly within 90 minutes, Villeneuve knows how to play his game perfectly.
Critics calls it Lynchesque or Cronenbergian, not in the least because of its copious spider-related metaphor, I don’t like to put a label on it, but indeed it is a film leaves you to ruminate on what is going on and more brilliantly, the clues are actually quite approachable if one’s memory serves well. I only watched it once by the time I am writing this review, I will be as frank as possible to let my understandings flow.
Some may call ENEMY is a pretentious grandstander since it deliberately breaks loose the narrative consistence and uses eye-catching images to lure audience in. It might be true in some level, but compared to Shane Carruth’s more oblique UPSTREAM COLOR (2013), ENEMY is immensely forthcoming, Jake Gyllenhaal plays two characters, the college professor Adam and the third-rate actor Anthony, Laurent is Adam’s girlfriend and Gadon is Anthony’s pregnant wife, and the unification of Adam and Anthony strikes quite clearly in the middle-point of the film when they finally meet each other, they are not twins, they are the same person, the question now remains, which one is real if there is no clone-technology involved? Or perhaps more mystifying, neither of them, it is the product of a mental malfunction, such as schizophrenia, resolves into two difference personalities.
One thing is for sure, Jake (I refer him as Jake since both Adam and Anthony are part of his id) is under some serious mental pressure, maybe it is his upcoming fatherhood puts him in cold feet, he has severe commitment issues, or his compulsive cheating with his wife, near the end, the car-crash is a manifest to terminate his adultery and in a parallel time, his wife finally accepts him and welcome him back, everything goes clear.
The next morning, his own demon is released again when Jake finally opens the envelope, it is the new key to the sex club (shown in the surreal opening scenes), an invitation to resume his sex-addictive life pattern, as he refers in his lecture, Hegel says the pattern always repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy and the second time it is a farce, so in the coda, when he accepts the invitation, it initiates the same pattern again, and what he encounters in the bedroom is a total farce, eventually he cannot outrun his deep-rooted dependency.
Gyllenhaal is sterling here as in PRISONERS, fully emanates the nuances although Adam and Anthony have literally the same person, the only distinction can tell them apart from appearance hinges on that Anthony is more well-dressed and Adam is sloppier. But characteristically, Anthony is aggressive and Adam is a put-upon, initially you can always sense the difference, but soon you will question which Jake is on-screen since some rather eerie signals popping up, and the otherworldly score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans boosts the mystery too.
Gadon is another key player in the game (and Mélanie Laurent is criminally under-utilised here as in many of her English-speaking projects), it is her unusual reaction towards the situation arises our alert. She is the one knows crystal clear what is happening to her husband, she plays along meticulously in order to lead him back to the normal life, she almost succeeds. Gadon acts out splendidly to unremittingly remind us things are not what they look, acutely corresponds to the pivotal maxim shows on screen in the beginning “chaos is order yet undeciphered”.
Denis Villeneuve’s ENEMY is an intricate mind game sets in a muted palette, its magnetism peaks at the highest volume when you finish it for the first time, it is an exceedingly welcome experience any cinephile is seeking for, better, at night.