Enemy, the new film from Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), is fascinatingly oblique. On a basic plot level, Enemy follows a history professor named Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers that a film actor, Anthony Clair (Gyllenhaal), is his exact physical double. The film examines each person’s romantic involvement with a different beautiful blonde woman. The two blonde women, Mary (Melanie Laurent) and Helen (Sarah Gadon), aren’t exactly alike but are clearly reminiscent of one another. A web of psychological complexities emerges as the four become entangled.
What happens in Enemy is not particularly special. The value is in Villeneuve’s surrealistic visualization of the story, which is astounding and distinctive. The entire film has an eerie, washed out yellow color to it. Watching the movie made me feel slimy and dirty, like I’d been dragged through the mud. Even more strange, the general aesthetic and a sprinkle of overhead shots creates the feeling of an omnipresent force throughout Enemy. The overall experience of this film isn’t immediately satisfying; over time however, the film burrows in a corner of your subconscious and crawls around your brain at will.
Enemy is an extremely impressive film and one that will contend for a spot on my year-end list. It definitely has issues. I’m still a bit confused about what literally happens and I suspect that certain moments are more provocative than perfectly relevant to the story. That said, the whole enterprise is fascinating and will stay with me for months to come. Enemy is not for the literal minded; it explores a person’s subconscious and requires its viewer to allow the experience to process at least partly on that level. If you’re open to that, this is a must-see and one of the best films of 2014 so far.