#6 Learning From The Experts – Enemy by Denis Villeneuve

“There is no lack of spiders’ webs in the world, from some you escape, in others you die.”

~ José Saramago’s The Double

It is all about a history teacher named Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers his perfectly identical copy Anthony Claire. This one sentence should be enough to explain the overview of the film. However the film deals with much deeper subjects as it proceeds.

The film opens with a rather disturbing scene in a sex club where the protagonist and some other men watch prostitutes masturbating. Another prostitute takes off her robe and presents a spider in a plate. We cut away as she is about to crush the spider. We start off with a voice-mail from the protagonist’s mother. She thanks him for showing her his new apartment and that she is worried about him and his life.

Adam Bell is a history teacher who is perfectly occupied in his daily routine and is evidently fed up with it. He lives in a small apartment with only a bed and a table for a laptop. His shares his nights with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). But it appears that apart from the sex there is hardly any relationship left. Whereas the other person who resembles Adam has worked as a junior artist in a couple of local films. Anthony Claire is married to Helen (Sarah Gadon) and she is pregnant.

The duplicates decide to meet up in a motel room. Anthony is surprised to discover the similarities but Adam freaks out. Anthony follows Adam and discovers his life. Later on he confronts Adam and questions him if he has slept with Anthony’s wife. Adam does not answer. Anthony proposes that they can only be even if he gets to take Adam’s girlfriend on a romantic date. By this point, the lives of these individuals are entangled beyond any repair.

(Heavy spoilers ahead)

This is one of the films which needs a lot of thinking after you are done watching it. You need to watch it at least twice to discover what it means. Or else it seems simply silly than suspenseful. The director Denis Villeneuve has explained in a few interviews that it is “a documentary of his subconscious.” These days, I am more inclined towards thinking that in every psychological mystery it is either a multiple personality disorder or the protagonist is a schizophrenic. And most of the times I am right.

In the film, both the characters are essentially the same person. This person tried acting as a profession some time in the past but now he is a history teacher. He is married to Helen and he is an adulterer. He has been caught by his wife and she fears that he will cheat on her again. The film is the protagonist’s subconscious struggle to be faithful to his wife. Which one of these two personalities is real? Well actually both of them are. Our protagonist is a mixture of both and he is struggling to fight his Anthony bit and not cheat on his wife again.

Why I like the film in particular is because of the hidden symbols and metaphors. And of course it gives us one of the most shocking endings. The colour scheme of the film is a striking tint of yellow and green. The director explained that the whole look and the smog came from the idea of pressure. Smog signifies pollution. Pollution of the atmosphere and pollution of the mind.

The use of spiders in the film signifies patterns. Spiders are considered as an ancient archetype, ‘The Weaver’. Females strive for order and males strive for chaos. A female spider kills the male spider she mates with. That explains the shot where the prostitute crushes the spider in the beginning. By attending the sex club, the protagonist crushes the order, the dictatorship.

The biggest mystery of the film, just like the director’s earlier film, Prisoners is the name of the film. Some claim that women are the enemies but the protagonist seem to be at ease with women. Then who is the enemy? The protagonist himself, his actions and his habits are his enemies.

Enemy is really a movie entirely about discomfort. A person pursuing his best attempt to free himself from the pattern. From his unreasonable tendency to cheat on his wife. To accept her not as a dictator but as a partner. To set aside his fear of commitment and be a loyal husband. All this put forward in an unusual and surreal manner. As I said earlier, it would take a sane person two or maybe three viewings to somewhat decipher the “chaos” what the film produces. The question is, do the people care?

There is a minority who speaks positively about the film. I believe the film is kind of ahead of its time. And one of the best films I watched this year.

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