The Double is about a government clerk’s life taking a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is his exact physical double. The best aspect of the film is it ability to provide a simple story that juggles dark humor while at the same time presenting a satirical monotony bureaucracy. Even if the film is not given much thought tells a complete story on it’s protagonist personal journey. Presenting an odd, bleak world with odd characters that our protagonist Simon interacts with. On a basic level Simon is simple character whose conflict arises from his double James. A physical form of the person Simon is not with no backbone to take initiative or guts to speak to the woman he loves. Simon himself makes his life pessimistic because of who he is, just like how his polar opposite James succeeds in what he cannot. This where the film’s dark humor comes from. His lack of conviction to act lends itself to repercussions for Simon from a security guard not recognizing him despite having work in the company for seven years or elevators not working him. In one way the film speaks about Simon being his own worst enemy as too much of one side does not please him. Psychology it could be seen as a breakdown of a single character in a monotony bureaucratic future where everything looks the same. While the forefront is always keen on Simon personal journey there’s small clues given and dialogue given to present the troubled dystopia. Looking at conformity or carbon copy of people being manipulated to take the shape and form of another instead of being themselves. Care was put into it writing as virtually anything it wants to tackle works in the film without eliminating attention from the main story.
Richard Ayoade succeeds in giving his film a dystopic, old fashioned, darkened look. There is very little bright light that ever strikes the frame as a single scene never takes place in daylight. Everything is dark and grey, with no real sense of colour (outside of a hyperactive spacey television show starring Paddy Considine). The film is set in an indiscernible time period which is deliberate to help add to the enigmatic nature of the dystopia Ayoade creates for Simon. He sees things as mundane, and very black and white. It defines his existence really, giving the setting an equal footing alongside the characters. Each frame drowns in an artificial blackness, harsh metals and steampunk/obsolete technological amalgams being used as seemingly high-tech office systems. Sly commentary on the doubling is brought to our attention via Simon’s constant trips to Hannah’s floor for one copy of his paperwork while the skin and bones facsimile walking around inside his life ends up not as autonomous as a Xerox sheet. They share a connection that Ayoade exposes through violent rage and a very precise outburst of frustration. Ayoade also makes a clever and interesting usage of sound in the film. From the television set to the copy machine. Even footsteps and knocking on a door seem intrusive. Voices and subtly used music to get inside of Simon’s head. All of these elements help act alongside the setting to really define Simon as a character keeping the aesthetics in check as much as it carefully woven story.
Jesse Eisenberg gives a very surprising performance as both Simon and James. Eisenberg is pitch perfectly cast in a dual role that requires him to seem put-upon and timid and broken, while also arrogant and assertive and borderline sociopathic. There are other actors in the film, but Jessie Eisenberg, as Simon and James, are basically the only one who actually gets to do something of note, which is somewhat disappointing since the film has a very good cast. Australian actress Mia Wasikowska is Hannah, the girl that Simon pines after. Wasikowska gave a very good playing a believable lost soul, but her American accent was inconsistent. Wallace Shawn plays Simon’s boss, a good natured, but stern man fits into the role. Supporting cast are limited in screen time from Sally Hawkins, Chris O’Dowd, and Paddy Considine all have minor roles, and Noah Taylor is indispensable are solid whenever on screen.
The Double is a clever satire supported by it anesthetics and a plot that also succeeds as a character study. It humor won’t be everyone liking, but the film tackles an arrange of themes and has a dynamic character to keep it story engaging. Alongside it are the technical aspects that serve the story as an equal to hold meaning as a narrative component not to just make it pretty. It works as a character study and succeeds as a satire offering dark humor in a very smart film that isn’t a carbon copy of old tricks for these kind of stories.
Differences between Enemy and The Double:
“Enemy” is the more intellectual of the two demanding viewers to form their own interpretation with the clues given to them. It’s a film that can’t be compare any other because if complex story and dream like atmosphere. “The Double” on the other hand works out an interpretation with you making it easier for audience to make sense of it all. While “The Double” does cover familiar ground it has the advantage of not relying as much on visuals or dialogue motifs to tell its story. If you removed the satire elements it equally works as a character study whereas “Enemy” ambiguity is required for the atmosphere it wants to achieve. Sure both film protagonists have some common traits, but plot wise are distinct both utilizing different techniques and having vastly different execution. Aside from coming out the same year, both being about doppelganger, and shared traits in protagonists similarity, there is not much to compare.