Movie Review: Enemy [2014]

Enemy is a new thriller by Denis Villeneuve, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon. 

Adam Bell (Jake) is a history teacher, has a girlfriend Helen (Sarah Gadon) and lives a quiet, black and white, troubleless life. His life mostly takes place between school, where he teaches and home, where he merely has sex with Helen. This is important, because it seems there relationship does not go further than that. One day, his co-worker very randomly suggests a movie to watch and he decides to give a try. The movie turns out to be as plain and not really special as his life, consequently he quits it and goes to sleep. But it does not end here, since he's seeing scenes from that movie in dreams and he sees himself in some episodes, or a guy who just looks like him. It turns out that this guy is Anthony St. Claire (also Jake) - an actor and exact copy of history teacher. This is where life gets messed. 

As a general impression, the movie is good - it is thrilling, well acted, interestingly shot. Technically it is far from perfection but screenplay is brilliantly thought and written. It gives so many hints to understand the film in so many interesting ways that one watch is never enough. Jake delivers a great performance by differentiating two characters by his acting You never mix a teacher and an actor. And this flexibility of his to switch from shy, unsociable teacher to successful, hunky, the man actor is impressive.

Jack the teacher and Jack the actor
At first, you might think that the story is gonna never end and the first half of movie is irrelevant. It is not! Because everything is relevant here to answer the main question are Adam and Anthony the same or different people? Yeah, the question is that "simple". There is no definite answer to this question, because, as I said, there are tons of hints in Enemy and it is almost impossible to find all of them.

HERE IS WHAT I THINK [spoilers ahead, if you have not watched the movie, do not read further]

Adam and Anthony are the same person, more precisely two different identities of the same person. First of all, because if they were two different people that would be sorta very simple and second of all, because so many symbolism in the film would not make sense. This theory is proved by either behavior of those characters or Helen (Anthony's wife) - who actually knows that her husband has personal identity problems (let me get back to this later).

At the beginning, when Adam finds out that he's got a "twin", he is shocked, obsessed, terrified and reacts mostly negatively. So does Anthony, who is even more not willing to see alleged "brother" anymore. My first, very sincere, reaction was why would anyone react to this kind of fact in a not nice way?! I mean what is wrong with having a brother, who just looks like you?! Later, when Helen meets Adam and tells about this meeting to Anthony, she seems really scared and emotional. Then actor Jake says that he has no idea what she is talking about to which she replies that "I think you know". My guess is that she in fact guesses that those two people are the same person - her husband. In reality, if you found out that your spouse has an identical twin, would it bother you so much that you get depressed?! But this is not what happens here, Helen is trying to accept the fact that her husband has an identity problems and he's living two different lives.

There is a scene with his mother, where she tells that he's got a respectable job and he has to quit his acting fantasy. It makes me think that he unsuccessfully tried to act in those films and then went back to teaching. It seems that Anthony has not been to his agency for six months and Helen is also six month pregnant. It clearly shows that for last half an year, he switched to school, trying to make things work in the life.
It turns out that actor Jake had been unfaithful to his wife, because he is a type of guy who easily sleeps around. He is not capable of keeping things too serious, taking responsibilities and does not definitely enjoy being controlled by someone. And his wife and a little baby in her is definitely trying to control or censor him. Opening scene shows him being in a strip club, where men can watch women masturbating and doing anything to satisfy their thirst. This is the place where Anthony feels great, because he is free, no obligations, no control, no censor.

Speech of professor Adam Bell about dictatorship, control and censorship clearly echoes how he feels in reality. He says that control is possible only by lowering education and that's why he started to teach - to resist the control two women have on him - mother and wife.

Spiders in the movie are women. The first spider - in strip club, a stripper is about to step on and kill - is wife. Because this is to where Anthony escapes from marriage responsibilities. The other spider roaming over Toronto is mother (played by Isabella Rossellini). She only appears only for three minutes and still she tries to control son in her own way - dictate what to eat, where to work, how to live. She also says that he (Anthony) had always had trouble to stay with one woman, which confirms my doubt that those two characters are the same person.

In this scene, she offers some blueberries, Adam rejects it saying that he does not love it. Then mother replies "of course, you love it". In fact, Anthony loves blueberry and the reason why Bell refuses to like it that he wants so much to run from mom that he refuses anything she suggests.
Basically, the movie is about one person trying to fight his own demons. Car crash in the end of the movie is a symbol of end of this fight, killing the bad part of main character's personality and Adam Bell finally stays with his wife, saying her sorry. It definitely implies that he kind of let go his passions and decided to commit to family. However, it did not stay unchanged for a long time. Earlier while giving a lecture, Adam said that history repeats itself and it is neverending circle. And when he finds a key to that strip club, he once again decides to cheat, this is why Bell tells wife that he has to go out at night. Then wife does not respond and entering the room we see a huge *fucking* spider in the room. It is Helen, who feels that her husband is going to be unfaithful again and wants to attack him as means of self-defense.

To conclude, Adam/Anthony was a man who tried to escape reality of family, responsibilities and control. That's why he decided to invent another him. One part lived that hard life and another easier one. But in the end, he realized that all this is farce and his life turned into a big mess. And then he panics.

Please, share your thoughts about this movie, if you've seen it, because I am not sure how accurately I solved it. 

6 comments:

  1. "She only appears only for three minutes and still she tries to control
    son in her own way - dictate what to eat, where to work, how to live." - great catch that didn't occur to me!


    I think they fear they felt when discovering the look a like was because they didn't think of that person as a brother just someone who looks just like them - that's a scary notion. I think wife's line 'i think you know' refereed to her being suspicious he is unfaithful again.

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  2. Adam Bell's girlfriend is Mary (Mélanie Laurent ). Anthony's pregnant wife is Helen (Sarah Gadon). These two actresses look alike, probably chosen this way on purpose. There are sites where each commenter has his/her own theory along with the article's theory.

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  3. You are right. It's just a mistake in the first paragraph. Thanks!

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  4. I don't think that line was about being unfaithful since it followed the news that she saw Adam Bell. She was definitely shocked after meeting with him and that dialogues was all about it.


    Thanks for stopping by, Margaret :)

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