The Double (2014) – By Kirsten Walsh

“A clerk in a government agency finds his unenviable life takes a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite – confident, charismatic and seductive with women.”

Jesse Eisenberg is a unique actor, and his portrayal of not one but two intriguing characters in Richard Ayoade’s  latest venture is stunning, to say the least. A visually challenging, emotionally draining, mind boggling film that makes the viewer not want to look away so as not to miss the subtle moments, “The Double” is hard to watch as a random viewer. You have to become a part of the film, to follow Eisenberg’s Simon James as he seeks approval, belonging, and a place in the convoluted existence that he lives in and becomes a part of in order to grasp it. With graphic, stylized colors that alienate the viewer while at the same time wrapping them into Ayoade’s world, the viewer slowly falls down the rabbit hole into a confused state. The degradation of the human psyche and the torturing that we do to ourselves is explored to such an extent that the viewer will leave the theater wondering “where is my double, and what will be the end game there?”

A deeply saturated color scheme with extreme uses of shadow and light play set up a tone of despair and loneliness. The film has a time structure that seems to be reminiscent of the 1960s, but is left to the viewer’s impression. Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella of the same title, Ayoade impresses the air of timelessness. There is not a heavy difference between daylight and night, everything is about the acting. Similar to Lars Von Trier’s overall feeling in “Dogville”, the light play really adds so much to the film. Who has a funeral at night? The subject matter of suicide is discussed in sporadic bursts throughout the film, not making light of the topic, but rather providing a small bit of levity to an ultimately dark film. That, and of course, a welcome cameo by Ayoade’s “IT Crowd” cast mate Chris O’Dowd”, which at first seems somewhat out of place, but still enjoyable.

The music is beautiful throughout the film, it is used so sporadically that it makes it even more emphatic. The use of ambient sound is pulled into the mix, giving an avant garde feel to the scenes. This allows the attention to be pulled even more so to the acting, as Eisenberg battles himself and a tempestuous love affair with Mia Wasikowska. At first glance, it appears that the performances fall somewhat flat. However, it’s not the performances that fall flat. In fact, they are like the shadows in the film- so much turbulence underneath them that one has to look deeper, or observe until the minutia reveals itself. As far as the music telling the rest of the story, with the long sequences of music over some of the hardest hitting moments, it is a thing of beauty. The end is truly an excellent way to end a film, and one of the best endings I have seen in quite a while, from an artistic point of view, with one of the best lines, “I’d like to think I’m pretty unique”. Don’t we all?

Would I watch this film again? Absolutely. It is definitely a film that one should watch by themselves and reflect upon afterwards. A strong film.

Check out more about “The Double” on the IMDb page:

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