An intricate Spanish-Canadian collaboration, Enemy is loosely based on Nobel Prize winner Portuguese author Jose Saramago’s novel O Homem Duplicado (The Double). What results of this adaptation, is a dark, psychological thriller with so many possibilities of mind mending reality. Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the double role of withdrawn and bored History professor Adam Bell and an unimportant actor with a narcissistic personality, Anthony Clarke.
After taking a suggestion from a co-worker, Adam Bell rents a local film presumably made in Toronto where he lives a shadowy existence, occasionally filled by his girlfriend Mary, but their relationship lacks a depth that Adam seems at time desperate to achieve. The film, titled Where There’s A Will There’s A Way, seems at first non remarkable but this quickly changes when Adam realizes that the man playing the part of the hotel bellhop in a particular scene, looks exactly like him. This quickly leads to feelings of shock and confusion which are later replaced by the desire to find this man, his doppelganger, and discover how similar they really are.
As Adam begins to investigate the actor listed in the credits as Daniel St. Claire, he becomes obsessed to know how this physical likeness between them can be so great. He goes to the actor’s talent agency, discover’s that his name is not Daniel but Anthony, calls his home, talks to his wife who confuses the two men as they also share an identical voice, and eventually talks to Anthony Claire himself, who suggests they meet. All these events take place in quick succession of jump cuts, which makes us feel Adam’s desperation to understand what is happening. The meeting, which takes place in a hotel room with a gloomy and claustrophobic interior, does not go well. Having Anthony in front of him, so real, suggesting that they might be bothers, and showing him a scar on his chest, which is quickly understood that Adam also has one, renders the latter’s initial fascination into fear. As Adam mumbles that everything has been a mistake and quickly leaves the room, Anthony’s expression is one of fascination. Now it is he that is obsessed with Adam and the possibility offered by their identical physicality.
The film is shot using frequent jump-cuts as well as dark interiors which only odd to the feeling of unsettlement felt by Adam as he begins to fall in a web that he does not understand, trying desperately to keep his sanity and life as he he knows it, together. The film’s soundtrack is not by any means a force majestueuse, but accompanied with the sequence of shadowy rooms and a feeling that there is something sinister deep within the context of the plot, its effect is one of fear-stoked anticipation.
It is not necessary to read Saramago’s novel to understand the film, but it would certainly explain the presence of gigantic spiders throughout the film; in the opening sequence, a woman is posed to squash a tarantula with her patent stiletto heel, later a monstrous spider is seen climbing the skyscrapers of Toronto, and in the final sequence, a spider that could only exist in a nightmare confronts Adam despairing conclusion. In another novel, Saramago refers to the fascist state as spiders, in which individuals are trapped in their well-knitted webs to escape from ones, or to die in others. Perhaps this is the profound message hidden in a seemingly dark thriller with a provoking sci-fi pastiche; that no matter what we do there are spiders everywhere, watching constantly and laying out their webs to trap us unsuspecting humans into our demise. But perhaps the spider exists in all of us; perhaps we all are proverbial silent hunters, understanding that we live in a trapped-or-be-trapped society, that we all unwillingly carry inside the seed to not only destroy others, but to also destroy ourselves.