Enemy is a movie that is based on José Saramago’s novel, The Double. It is the second film from director Denis Villeneuve and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who worked together on the thriller, Prisoners, which came out last year. Enemy is also a thriller, but very different from Prisoners in that it is more of a cerebral film. Not everything is what it seems at first glance.
Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a history professor who lives in a small, barely furnished apartment and has a pretty, blonde girlfriend named Mary (Mélanie Laurent). Anthony (also Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small time actor who has a pretty, blonde wife named Helen (Sarah Gadon), who is six months pregnant. Upon the recommendation of a co-worker, Adam rents a movie and happens to see his exact double, Anthony in it. He becomes obsessed with the idea that he has a double he doesn’t know about and tries to contact him. They eventually meet, and ultimately end up desiring one another’s lives.
Warning: Lots of Spoilers!
There were plenty of things in this movie that just confused me, but I’ll try my best to make sense of it here. The most obvious fact is that Adam and Anthony are the same person. Even though Anthony has an overall more aggressive personality, we see that Adam is capable of also having an aggressive personality from time to time, especially when it comes to having sex with his girlfriend, Mary. It may be that Adam suffers from multiple personality disorder. I’m pretty sure that Adam is his real name because it is what his mother calls him in the beginning of the movie when she phones him and he doesn’t pick up. She also mentions something about him moving in to a smaller apartment. So, what I can conclude from this is just a theory, but I think that perhaps Adam has an affair with Mary, and maybe he’s not actually with Helen at that time. Or, his life with Mary is just some dream he’s making up in his mind. However, Helen does confront him at one point when she suspects he is talking to a woman on the phone and she asks, “You’re seeing her again, aren’t you?” So, it’s more likely that, yes, he has cheated or is cheating, and it’s not just something that is all in his head.
There is also a lot of imagery of spiders used in this movie. At first, we see a spider when Adam/Anthony is in a sex club in the very beginning, and a woman with very high heels is about to step on a tarantula. Later in the film, there is a giant spider looming over the city, which is my personal worst nightmare. We also see a spider web design made by a cracked windshield when Anthony crashes the car with Mary inside. Then at the very end, when Adam finds the key to the sex club and tells Helen he’ll be “going out tonight,” suddenly, Helen turns into a big spider, an image that would haunt me for years to come. I think that spiders are a metaphor for feeling fear and feeling trapped.
The spider represents the wife and impending fatherhood. In the beginning when the spider is crushed, it’s like Adam is trying to break free and indulge in his sexual desires with other women. It might even be Mary crushing the spider, but you can’t see the woman’s face in the scene because it’s not focused. Either way, Adam’s life with his girlfriend isn’t perfect, in fact, it’s rather empty, and he eventually longs to find his other self. The version of him that is married. However, his other self (Anthony), finds himself attracted to Mary and blackmails Adam to let him steal her away for a night. While this happens, Adam goes to see Helen and she asks him, “how was school?” He is confused by this because he thinks he’s a completely separate person from “Anthony.” But this also shows that his real profession actually is a college professor who might’ve had a few small acting roles that have lead him nowhere in life. This is further shown when Adam visits his mother and she tells him to give up his dreams of being a third rate actor. Anyways, Adam sleeps with Helen while Anthony is out with Mary. Anthony and Mary end up in a car crash right at that exact moment, which I guess could mean that Adam actually killed off his other half along with his affair by actually going back to his wife. Then life seems like it might go on normally for Adam and his wife until he finds the key to the sex club, and the vicious cycle starts all over again, hence the image of the spider at the very end.
There might be a few points in this movie that I’ve missed, or my theory is totally wrong, but that is what I got from it. I might be horrible at explaining, but I tried. The whole story is about a man’s battle with himself. He is his own worst enemy–maybe that’s where the title comes from. Even his lecture in the beginning of the movie about dictatorships and that they rely on patterns could be a way of saying that Adam’s sexual desires dictate his life, and the cycle that I just attempted to explain in the previous paragraph is the pattern that leads to this dictatorship’s success.
It’s a pretty dark film for the most part. Jake Gyllenhaal does an amazing job playing two separate characters who are actually the same person but not the same person. I give him credit for having double the on-screen presence and actually making it good. It’s tough to say how I feel about this movie, but I did have to take a while to actually dissect it and make sense of it. So that in itself is an accomplishment. Even if a movie isn’t particularly good in all aspects, if it makes you take the time to actually think, then there’s something in it that is worthwhile. However, I must say that I didn’t enjoy this film as much as I enjoyed Prisoners. It could be due to the fact that I had a hard time understanding this movie, but it could also be that I think Prisoners is just an all around better movie, with more suspense, a better plot, and a lot more talent.
In the end, if you like movies that make you think, then I would recommend this. But if you’re just looking for something fun to watch where you don’t have to try and figure out, “what the hell does that mean?!” then perhaps you should skip it. I don’t think it’s a great film, but it’s also not a bad one.