In Denis Villeneuve’s ENEMY (2014), a mild-mannered, socially awkward college professor discovers he has a doppelganger, which leads to the two men meeting with dangerous consequences. Though lacking in answers, Villeneuve’s brilliant direction produces a story that is tense, moody, and haunting.
In the opening scene, we see a woman about to crush a live tarantula at an erotic show at an underground club. A man (Jake Gyllenhaal) watches.
Cut to Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal), a history professor who lives a monotonous life on spin cycle in a spare, shabby apartment, and whose only meaningful relationships are with his judgmental mother (Isabella Rossellini) and girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent), who drops in now and then for a tryst. After renting a movie, he discovers a bit actor in it, Anthony Claire (Gyllenhaal), and is immediately struck by something strange. They look exactly the same.
This leads to Bell reaching out to Claire, who decides how best to take advantage of the situation, unaware Bell might just do the same.
While all this is happening, we see some, uh, tarantulas.
This is clearly an art film. The slow burn, ever-present sepia tones, odd spider motif, the question of whether they’re doppelgangers or somehow the same person, the jarring ending–all of it is oddly affecting yet in the end is completely open to interpretation. I came up with one, and it fits, though for me it’s one of those cases where the mystery is sweeter than its solution.
Overall, ENEMY is a strange visual experience, unlike most films I’ve seen. I liked it a lot. I’m still not sure if I loved it, but it’s certainly affecting, it’s definitely distinctive, and I’d say it’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood for a strange and haunting slow burn.