Enemy (Villeneuve, 2014)


Enemy boasts a rich atmosphere and layered compositions. A combination of selective focus, physical obstructions, blur, and fog viscerally presents the confusion and enigmatic silence that accompanies the film’s psychological and narrational tropes. As with Prisoners, Villeneuve deftly brings a certain emotional intensity that is at once realistic and uncanny. His ability to tap into and express psychological crisis is highly commendable, both here and in the missing children story from last year. But, this time, it’s not anguish that is present, it is sensitivity, confusion, and the uncanny. For this reason, he goes the Kafkaesque, Lynchian route of disturbing and perplexing the viewer rather than providing resolution. Just as Adam Bell is left without answers, so too are the viewers.

The existential crisis which is portrayed is made that much more enigmatic in that images and dialogue at times seem paradoxical. Though a scar indicates that perhaps the two men are brothers separated from birth, the scar is later revealed, ever so subtly, to be on the same side for both men—they literally are exactly the same. Notions of madness and schizophrenia later surmount when Anthony’s wife asks Adam (in his place) if he had a good day at school. She quickly lowers her head and absconds conflict or conversation when asked to repeat herself, indicating that perhaps she has simply given up trying to explain some truth about the doubles that only she realizes. After all, despite scenes of them face to face, there is never a scene where a third person sees them both simultaneously, and even when Anthony’s wife calls him and he answers, Adam has left her sight by entering the classroom. This theory is soon undercut, however, when Adam’s girlfriend notices Anthony’s ring imprint, realizing that he is not Adam Bell, and confirming—or does it—that they are indeed two separate people.

Throughout the film, a dissonant score, sepia tones which recall Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing, and light filtering contribute to the overall sense of malaise which the film carries in spite of the plot’s lack of actual conflict or motive. Villeneuve shares with the viewer the sense of an encroaching anxiety with a mystifying source, which he symbolically represents in the form of a spider. Somehow we sense that the spider, which is perhaps not phenomenal but an idea or concept in the mind of the protagonist(s), is responsible for providing the framework or the possibility for the existence of this strange phenomenon. Even so, its presence as well as the film’s ultimate thematic agenda remains confounding.

77/100 – Very Good

4 Stars


About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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