Jake Gyllenhaal is his own co-star in an unnerving psychological thriller
'Chaos is order yet undeciphered,' states the film’s opening epigraph, an idea taken from José Saramago's The Double on which Enemy is loosely based. It's a sentiment which Québécois director Denis Villeneuve boldly transfers onto his puzzling and striking inquiry into the human condition. This is a thematically rich psychological thriller which examines identity, responsibility and desire and sets out to disorientate and perplex.
When crumpled history lecturer Adam spots his exact double in a film his attention shifts to finding him and he pushes aside his relationship troubles. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as both Adam and Anthony - a confident actor who is expecting his first child. Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon play the women in their lives.
This is a surreal voyage into the psyche of a man who's cracking under the pressure of his reality and who fears for his future. Adam lives a lonely, yellow-tinged existence in a smoggy Toronto, his fractured disposition pushing him closer to the abyss as he finds himself unable to control his compulsions.
The brutalist architecture of the University of Toronto, where Adam teaches, recalls the aesthetic and unsettling ambience of early David Cronenberg. Adding to the disconcerting atmosphere is the presence of an enormous spider which lurks menacingly on the periphery of the metropolis. It bears a huge resemblance to Louise Bourgeois’ 'Maman' sculpture which rested for a few years at the National Gallery of Canada. The spider appears numerous times and proves a tricky motif open to interpretation, but which on one level represents a fear of fatherhood.
Villeneuve layers his film with meaning. He scrutinises the modern world and the increasing disconnect brought about by new technology and communicates these ideas via an array of gloomy visuals and music. The overbearing high rises of Toronto combined with the doom filled score conveys such intense turmoil and dread it's enough to leave a ringing in your head post-viewing.
Selected release from Fri 2 Jan.