I don’t think I got it. Most of it, I understand, I think. The crux of it, however, will take a while to bubble up from my unconscious–where I felt it–to my conscious thoughts. Enemy (2013) is very similar to Only God Forgives (2013) in that way. Both use slick, beautiful cinematography (Nicolas Bolduc and Larry Smith, respectively) and a beautiful face (Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling, respectively) to keep your mind at ease through the confusion. Though Only God Forgives created mountains of dread and atmosphere such that it made me think something else was going on there–while it turned out the surface world was, in fact, all there was–Enemy builds those same feelings while remaining blissfully confusing. I thought to myself “what the f***” at least a dozen times in both films, but in Enemy it was more appreciative than accusatory.
Enemy, written by Javier Gullón (adapted from the novel by José Saramago), is the story of two men who are absolutely identical in body and voice. One, Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a history professor at a Toronto university while the other, Anthony (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a third-rate actor with a pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon). Adam, while watching a movie, sees Anthony and instantly becomes obsessed with him. Adam tracks down his agency and finds Anthony’s real name. When he calls Anthony’s house, the wife Helena can’t tell the voices apart. They meet, briefly, but Adam gets nervous and leaves. Helena finds out about Adam and goes to see him. Anthony finds out about Sara (Mélanie Laurent), Adam’s girlfriend, and goes to see her. Things get confusing. A naked woman steps on a tarantula for the benefit of onlooking men. Or was that the beginning?
This is billed as the second pairing of director Denis Villeneuve and actor Jake Gyllenhaal after their basically successful Prisoners (2013) where Gyllenhaal plays the driven detective Loki who searches for Hugh Jackman‘s kidnapped daughter. Neither film fully plays into its particular genre. Prisoners is not really a police procedural nor is Enemy a simple thriller. Definitely not simple. Enemy has the elements of a jigsaw puzzle to it. Perhaps paradoxically, Enemy is more of a mystery film than Prisoners. Those of you at home who like to play for gold stars by guessing at results will be quite satisfied by Enemy–though I ask that, for the good of humanity, you not see this in theaters where people will be forced to wish you ill by your incessant “I told you it was ——“.
Indeed, while parts of the film will be thought predictable by these same gold-star champions, the end of the film will absolutely amaze. Master guessers will find this amazement very much not to their liking. Because Enemy is not to be figured out on so simple a rubric. The end of the film says “You think you have it? What does this mean?” I am no guesser. Or, rather, I am not one to share guesses or indulge in them. Enemy suits me very well, then, because it is a film to be understood, not figured out. There is symbolism at work, not only plotting. There’s an echo of Mulholland Drive (2001) here. In the same way, I want someone to sit down and explain it all to me and then I don’t want that at all. I just want to wallow in the ambiguity.
Oh yeah. Kafka.
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