Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Based on: The Double by Jose Saramago
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini. Canada, Spain. 1h 31m.
Every now and again an amazingly bizarre psychological thriller filters through to the big screen. and they usually go unnoticed as they don’t cause a lot of hype with the masses but this surreal doppelganger mystery is filled with some of the most curious and breathtaking cinema that I’ve seen for quite some time.
A man attends an erotic show in an underground club that ends just as a naked woman is on the verge of crushing a live spider under her heels, elsewhere a pregnant woman is sitting at home alone.
Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal) a mild mannered professor who looks identical to the man at the show rends a movie after it’s recommended and see’s his doppelganger. After doing extensive research the identifies the actor as Daniel St Claire, the stage name of Anthony Claire, he rents the rest of St Claire’s movies, and his obsession over this actor increases, to the point that his girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent) becomes troubled. Adam stalks Anthony, visiting his office and his pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) who confuses him with her husband. In a separate dream scene a giant spider lurks among the skyscrapers of Toronto.
Eventually the two meet up in a hotel room and discover they are completely identical apart from their persona the professor is reserved and bookish while the actor is an abrasive sex addict, he accuses Adam of sleeping with his pregnant wife and insists on a wife swap as payment… then things get really strange.
“Chaos is order yet undecipherable”
From the sexy cultish introduction right until the incredible straight out of left field ending, this Kafka-esque mindfuck is engrossing, not only for the wonderful acting, beautifully shot scenes and a truly mystifying movie. So much of it seems like a dream, and the spider theme is prevalent but in such a slight way it’s often missed and definitely worth a second watch and maybe a read of the book (which I am yet to do). The actors were even legally bound not to discuss the significance of the 8 legged freaks, but look for clues in the film and see what you can come up with. The attentive director Villeneuve is no stranger to making an obscure movie more obscure by not answering the questions but allows his audience to interpret and make connections between the events.
Feeling dreamy and being whimsical in a very sinister way, the obsessions and passions of each man soon becomes darker and hidden away. There is a particular scene where the actor is stalking the professors girlfriend and it’s so intense it’s literally like an animal looking for the kill, there are many awkward conversations that the doppelgangers have between each other and the darker nature of the actor is quite nightmarish. Gyllenhaal certainly is worth his weight in gold in this film and the better choice than Javier Bardem and Christian Bale, his gentle nature comes across much stronger when he is a big headed pushy actor.
It takes a little while to really start to unfold into the chaos that it is, but at least that gives you; the viewer time to absorb and adjust before you’re sent off on a wonderland adventure. I instantly had to watch it a second time just to try and work out some of the visual puzzles and it was twice as good the second time and continues to thrill me. I have been meaning to read the book and hopefully I’ll be let in on the secret of the spiders.
R – Under the Skin (2013), Prisoners (2013)
L – Selected Spider Flicks, WTF Endings, Doppleganger films
A – What did I just see.. how the ending can change an entire film
5S – Jake Gyllenhaal