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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sean Kelly

Second Look: Enemy

Enemy

This review contains some SPOILERS

When I saw Denis Villeneuve’s latest film Enemy at Canada’s Top Ten earlier this year, I did not really know what to think of it.  In the end, I decided to remain somewhat neutral on the film, since I knew that there was a chance that I would understand and like the film more on rewatch.  Immediately after I saw and reviewed Enemy, the film ended up being the leading nominee for the Canadian Screen Awards with ten nominations, five of which it won (including Best Director for Villeneuve).  This, combined with constant positive reviews by others, has convinced me to return to the film (now in its regular theatrical release) and give Enemy a second look.

I will start off this second look by pointing out an apparent error I made in my original review.  In the review I described the start of the film, which takes place at some sort of sex club.  I said that the men in the club were watching a naked Helen (Sarah Gadon) on stage. However, in reality I confused a shot of Helen naked on a bed as being part of the action in the sex club.  In fact, you don’t really see the faces of the women in the club, though I think it’s still hinted that Helen is one of them.

Moving on, I have to say that I was correct in my assertion that I would like Enemy better on rewatch.  I still don’t fully understand the plot of the film, but I am able to better appreciate the themes of patterns and duality that are in the film.  One question that entered my head on this viewing is whether Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters of Adam Bell and Anthony Claire are really doppelgangers or are merely the same person living a duo life? 

Support for this hypothesis comes from how both are only on-screen together twice in the film.  While I considered this a flaw the first time around, it now makes sense if this is just a single person having some sort of multiple personality disorder.  Further support comes from how the supporting characters, played by Sarah Gadon, Mélanie Laurent, and Isabella Rossellini, only interact with one of these characters at a time.  I also found it quite interesting how, after meeting Helen on the school campus, Adam Bell walks out of frame before Anthony Claire answers Helen’s call to him.  Then of course, there’s Adam’s mother, who mentions his apparent dream of being a movie star, which is Anthony’s career.

The big issue with this theory is the final act of the film, which appears to show Adam and Anthony in two different places at the same time.  Even if they are truly separate beings, it is still quite obvious that they are still different forms of the same person, both of whom took a slightly different path through life.  This is probably best represented by both owning the exact same photo, with Adam’s being torn in half and in a box and Anthony’s being whole and framed on a shelf.

Then there is the repeated spider imagery, which begins with a shot of a tarantula in the sex club.  Most of these images, such as a naked spider-headed woman walking on the ceiling and a giant spider attacking Toronto, are shown merely as dreams.  However, there are other images, such as a broken window in the shape of a spider web and the film’s final shot, which cannot be easily explained.  Most likely, these images have something to do with the mental state of Adam Bell, which further supports the theory that Anthony Claire is just an alternate version of Adam’s personality.

All together, I am quite happy that I gave Enemy another chance, since after I got used to the weirdness of the plot,  it turned into a quite compelling psychological character study.  I still might not understand everything the film is trying to say, but I will look forward to finding out on further repeat viewings.

Original Rating: 5 | INDIFFERENT
Second Look Rating: 8 | LIKED IT (Improvement)

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).