“Enemy” is the kind of film that many detractors would labeled as pretentious. This is the kind of film that relies heavily on subtlety for its character study. Demanding you pay close attention too every clue or else the meaning is loss. By all means it’s a film whose values is what you make of it. With that being said “Enemy” is a very in depth character study made more sophisticated the more you think about it.
Enemy is about a man seeking out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. One thing everyone will take away from the film is the abstract ending. It’s unexpected and fades to black before giving an answer. The film narrative is on the same level. Rather than progressing in a linear, plot-driven manner, the story slowly fades into the distance to make way for an aimless type of suspense. At first it appears that when the twins meet each other it would make a series of ambiguous ideas become clear. It does the exact opposite woven to be abstract as possible only hinting at the various ideas that this is could be a story about split personality, a story about falling back into bad habits, or could all be a bad dream triggered by arachnophobia. Doing so by reaffirming repetition in dialogue and certain phrases utter by the characters. A line of dialogue tells us bits of the character in one scene to later challenge its meaning. This also results in the same effect working against the film just as much. Repeating itself to hold meaning in falling back into a pattern much like the character and narrative choices taken. As a whole there’s not much of a cohesive story jumping between the past and present without a indication on when anything occurred and in what order. Without it metaphors “Enemy” is just a simple story with a lack of conflict and resolution to the events that play out. While it does weave a complicated narrative with many interpretations it won’t have the same impact as sometimes it confuses being vague for being mysterious losing some meaning along the way.
Denis Villenueve direction is detail focused. Villeneuve’s own stylistic flourishes alternately underline and undercut his efforts. The jagged editing adds to the audience’s feeling of unease with a kind of controlled confusion, making us wonder how much we really know about what’s going on. Visually oppressive with its pale filtered tones and aerial shots showing the geometrical arrangement of the buildings creates a dreamlike quality to the film visuals. At times it hypnotic and other times makes us become loss between reality and a dream. Occasionally it will beat you over the head the imagery of Spiders and web many times. While it serves a greater purpose of a tricky metaphors it’s the most obvious clue that gives to its audience. A minor setback considering how carefully how other clues and details are given without making them the centered of attention. Jake Gyllenhaal inhabits his two characters very well, slipping into Adam’s despondent skin as easily as he finds Anthony’s brash confidence. Though he plays two characters who were physically identical, even when they were dressed the same, Gyllenhaal put on a great performance, creating two separate people who you could tell apart, but without it looking obvious. Co-stars Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon are appropriately icy; almost Hitchcockian in their blond coldness. The great Isabella Rossellini makes a brief but welcome appearance, yet the film really does rest on Gyllenhaal’s shoulders. Carrying the entire film on his shoulder without confusing the viewer by two very similar looking characters.
Enemy is a tricky character study that messes with your head. Held together by a distinct and careful performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s not as accessible for those who enjoyed Denis Villenueve’s “Prisoners” that similarly dealt with the dark side its protagonists, but is just as well crafted even if a absolute meaning won’t be found.