Friday, 23 December 2016

Enemy (3 Stars)

I have the greatest respect for Jake Gyllenhaal. I wouldn't necessarily list him among my favourite actors, but one thing is certain: he isn't a conventional actor. He has the courage to accept film roles that might not appeal to mainstream audiences. He takes risks. Looking back over his career, the risks don't always pay off. He's had a few big successes, such as "Brokeback Mountain" and "Everest", but many of his films have lost money at the box office. Including "Enemy". That might be enough to ruin the career of a lesser actor, but in Jake's favour the films that lost money have received praise from critics.

I don't know what to make of "Enemy". While writing this I'm still undecided whether to give it an average three star rating, or not rate it at all. My ratings are always intuitive gut reactions, not based on objective judgement of a film's qualities. I say that with pride. In this case I just don't know what to say about the film.

The first 15 minutes of the film were so depressing that I had to take a break. I didn't know whether I wanted to continue watching. We see a university lecturer in Toronto, Adam Bell. If I were to describe him objectively he's a success. A high-paid job and a beautiful girlfriend who loves him. But that's not the way he sees it. He lives in a boring city, he has a boring job, he has a boring relationship. Daily repetition. He repeats the same words about political theory to different classes, year after year. He has sex with his girlfriend every night, but to me the sex scenes are more depressing than anything else. There's no passion. It's something he does because he needs release. I have to say, if I were in a relationship like that I'd never want to have sex again. Sex without passion is meaningless.

That's the point where I took a break. When I returned to the film things started happening. We find that Adam never watches films. Also a bad sign in his life. A university colleague recommends a film to him, which he borrows from a video store. What the film is about is unimportant, except that it's a light-hearted film intended to cheer him up. What matters is that he spots an actor who looks identical to him. He tracks down the actor, who also lives in Toronto, and they meet. Their voices sound identical. They sound identical. They even have the same scar on their chests.

In contrast to Adam, the actor, Anthony Claire, has a happy life. He leads a glamorous life, he lives in a beautiful apartment, and he's married to a beautiful wife who is six months pregnant. This isn't enough for him. We hear in conversations that he's been having affairs, possibly with actresses. The temptations in the film world are many.

As they become involved with one another their lives overlap. Adam pretends to be Anthony, while Anthony pretends to be Adam.

So what's the film about? After watching it I still didn't know, so I searched the Internet for opinions.

Film critic Forest Wickman says it's a parable about what it's like to live under a totalitarian state without knowing it.

The actress Sarah Gadon, who plays Anthony's wife says that the film is about a man who fears female intimacy.

Jake Gyllenhaal says the film is about a man who  has to figure himself out before he can commit to life as an adult.

The director Denis Villeneuve, the person who should know what the film is about, writes: "A man who wants to leave his mistress and go back to his pregnant wife must confront his worst enemy: himself. This man should be in competition with another version of himself. In the dark spaces of his mind, Adam deals with an obsessive sexuality that cuts him off from intimacy and therefore any hope of true love. In order to be able to return to his regular life, his narcissistic side turns against the object of his sexual desire and destroys it".

These thoughts don't help me much. I need to watch the film again and try to understand it for myself.

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