Enemy (2013)

Denis Villeneuve ♦ 90 mins ♦ Psychological thriller ♦ Canada

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Chaos is order yet undeciphered.

So went an intertitle lifted directly from the Saramago novel which is this screen adaptation’s source, looking more like pretense than anything else. But once again, I was proven wrong.

Enemy is “more than the sum of its parts”, simplistically speaking.

I watched it twice. Consecutively. You’ll need to y’know, just to get even a whiff of clarity out of the film’s jumbled puzzle of a narrative.

Of course I knew that it wasn’t going to be linear the moment I read that opening intertitle. I was already anticipating a Memento or Irreversible kind of viewing. Still, that didn’t prepare me enough for every single thing that went on – especially that heavily allegorical spider leitmotif that practically threw me off everytime the first time in. I think it’s safe to say that Villeneuve succeeded in leading us on just enough for us to want to see through the end of this major headache. A major headache lurking around in the guise of two Jake Gyllenhaals running around a brilliantly realized desolate version of Ontario. Your patience and threshold for frustration will be properly challenged by this one, for sure.

The spider leitmotif, for example, is one of the most widely and wildly interpreted element in any film today. Some try to grasp at straws, others hit the nail on the head while others just fume, brush off this plot device as irrelevant and assert that those who do get it are pseudo-intellectuals mentally jerking each other off. It’s all a bit sad and confusing really, since the spiders hold a pivotal role throughout the movie. I, for one, would gladly go along with actress Sarah Gadon’s take, with spiders being the protagonist’s “fear of female intimacy; it’s a physical manifestation of his fear of female intimacy”. The film begins making some sort of sense when you rewatch all these scenes in this context.

Also, I would like to extend my thanks to all those responsible for bringing out the arresting geographical aesthetic complements and reflections of the characters’ emotional and psychological conditions. The subtle-yet-grand visual underlining of the concepts of control, solitude, apathy, secrecy, betrayal and concession were not only limited to the progression of events involving the characters; it was also shown and made to be felt with the cityscapes, the skyline, the soaring bird’s-eye views and, most of all, with the featured architecture. Enemy, then, in this light, effectively bumped Her down a notch in my list of excellent examples of films that heavily utilized architecture as narrative device to awe-inspiring effect.

Long story short, Enemy is a solid effort put in by an equally solid ensemble of professionals, both in front of and behind the camera. Jake Gyllenhaal, Sarah Gadon, Melanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini, Nicolas Bolduc, Denis Villeneuve and everybody else involved in this production all deserve the accolades heaped on them for their dedication to this freshly-twisted screen adaptation of a very potent Saramago story. I highly recommend it. Also, do watch it at least twice, just so you can get the most out of it.

Full Credits

Director: Denis Villeneuve | Producer: Miguel A. Faura Niv Fichman | Writer: José Saramago (novel) Javier Gullón (film) | Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal Sarah Gadon Melanie Laurent Isabella Rossellini | Camera: Nicolas Bolduc | Music: Danny Bensi Saunder Jurriaans | Editing: Matthew Hannam | Casting: Deirdre Bowen | Production Design: Patrice Vermette | Art Direction: Sean Breaugh | Set Design: Martha Sparrow | Makeup: Catherine Viot | Costume: Renée April | Production Management: Mariano Liwski (post-production supervisor) | Sound: Oriol Tarragó | Foley: Manolo Carrión Juan Manuel Maroto | VFX: Rodeo FX | Production: Rhombus Media Roxbury Pictures micro_scope Mecanismo Films (with the participation of) Telefilm Canada Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales Corus Entertainment Televisión Española Ontario Media Development Corporation Société de développement des entreprises culturelles – Québec | Distribution: A24 (USA 2014) Pathé (France/UK 2013) Entertainment One (Canada 2014) Alfa Pictures (Spain 2013) |Year: 2013 | Length: 90′ | Genre: Psychological thriller | Spoken Language: English | Subtitles: SRT file (English) | Country: Canada Spain

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