Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The DVD release of Enemy apparently contains a "Making Of" featurette. Some excerpts here, along with passages from a Film School Rejects appreciation for A24's movie selections.
Enemy finds Jake Gyllenhaal collaborating with Denis Villeneuve for a second consecutive outing after his fine performance in the so-so Prisoners. This Jose Saramago-adapted story of an introverted professor who finds out he has a double in the form of a confident aspiring actor allows for an abstract and at-times shocking meditation on identity in the face of life’s banal cycles and drastic changes. A tense, brooding, and decidedly discomfiting film, Enemy is more reminiscent of the Gyllenhaal of Donnie Darko than the movie star he subsequently became. Yet it’s also far more grown up than Gyllenhaal’s otherwise impressive initial outings.
Unafraid of ambiguity and entrusting of its audience to deliberate over its array of idiosyncratic set pieces, Enemy’s style and narrative seem at first to produce a contradiction: the film’s crux centers on the protagonist’s literal confrontation with himself, yet the film materializes no definitive takeaways in terms of what this confrontation produces, preferring instead to give audiences a piercing, peculiar final image meant to haunt any discussions of the film.
One cannot perform ambiguity, or act out great big themes, and therein lies the brilliance of Gyllenhaal’s decisions on display here. His dual performance is remarkably (yet necessarily) specific – he imbues each character not simply with unique characteristics, but embodies them with separate worldviews – yet he is also inscrutable, his interior life assumed but notably distanced from the viewer. The result mirrors his characters’ detachment, confusion and uncertainty, but more importantly, it allows Enemy to function as the abstract fable it is.
One seemingly rote scene involves Gyllenhaal’s conversation with his mother played by Isabella Rossellini. This brief scene subtly opens up the possibility that (for the first and perhaps only time in the film) either version of Gyllenhaal could be present onscreen given the select information provided in their exchange. Gyllenhaal no doubt had an idea of which character he was portraying in this moment, but that is absent in our experience, with the necessary ambiguity this scene needs to provide the film. With Enemy, Villeneuve has taken a movie star and carefully stripped away his identity and presence by bifurcating him.
I can appreciate A24 for supporting Enemy. I just wish they had done a better job promoting it.
Here's a brief video of Isabella Rossellini discussing Enemy.