by M. Faust
In a song on their first album name-checking other Canadian cities, the Guess Who (from Winnipeg) sang about “the grim beauty of Toronto.” In the ensuing 36 years, Toronto has grown a hell of a lot bigger, but remains every bit as grim. David Cronenberg made great use of that in his early films, where Toronto makes a pitiless backdrop for his stories of bodies turning against themselves. It serves equally well in Enemy, which may be the best Cronenberg movie in years, even if it was actually directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Adapted from the José Saramago novel The Double, Enemy stars Jake Gyllenhaal (his first film with Villeneuve, shot before Prisoners, which came out last fall) as Adam, a Toronto history teacher. He lives a life of what appears to be quiet desperation, repeating the same canned lectures to his classes and having sex with a woman (Mélanie Laurent) that is so joyless that we initially assume she is a hooker rather than his fiancée.
One night while watching a movie shot in Toronto, Adam sees a background actor who looks a lot like him. Investigating, he learns that this is Anthony Clair, an aspiring actor living in Mississauga who doesn’t merely resemble him: He is an exact duplicate of Adam, down to voice, birthmarks, and handwriting. When he arranges a meeting, Anthony becomes as obsessed with the situation as Adam is, though neither one of them is happy about it. (The title change from The Double to Enemy was not idly made.)
Gyllenhaal, whose once-boyish features have taken on a masculine hardness in his 30s, does terrific work playing the subtle differences between the two men. The film opens with the legend “Chaos is order yet undeciphered,” and Villeneuve keeps us off-guard for much of the film, just as he keeps us uncomfortable with the droning, ominous score and queasy lighting. And there are those spiders that keep popping into the frame…
I disliked the brutal and preposterous Prisoners, but Enemy is, I suspect, closer to Villeneuve’s heart. Highly recommended to fans of David Lynch’s Lost Highway as well as viewers who like a movie they can argue about afterward: The film’s final shot is the kind of thing for which the term “WTF?” was invented.
Watch the trailer for Enemy
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v13n13 (Week of Thursday, March 27) > Film Reviews > Enemy
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds