Enemy is a 2014 film directed by Denis Villeneuve starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, and Sarah Gadon. It is an adaptation of the book El Hombre Duplicado by José Saramago. My goodness, what a mind-boggling film! I watched this movie last week, but had to watch it again today to understand it well enough to make a review. For me, this is truly a brilliant work of art. I highly recommend people to watch it before reading on with all the major spoilers. It is one of the best I have seen so far this year. Amazing.
SO MANY SPOILERS AHEAD !!!
I will give a little review of the movie in general and then I will provide my own interpretation. Denis the director did a wonderful job creating this film from the book for us. The acting was good, I mean Jake’s performance always delivers, and in all his roles he’s got something interesting going on about him. The yellow hue was odd at first but you get used to it and the soundtrack was eerie and set a mysterious mood to the whole film which I now can appreciate. As I mentioned, I had to watch it twice to understand because the first time I watched it with a different mindset. You have to understand that when I read the description in IMDB: “A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.” That’s exactly how I was seeing it and what I was expecting. Never did it ever occur to me that most of the film took place in the guy’s subconscious. So when it ended the first time, I thought, “What the hell?!” So I searched for explanations and read about it being in the mind and then, it hit me. It made more sense of course. I knew I had to watch it a second time with a new mindset and so now, for the second time, I have understood a lot and have written my own interpretation. I apologize for the length of it, but if you enjoyed this movie then you enjoy reading other people’s thoughts and interpretations.
Understanding that what we see is happening in Anthony’s mind, is important and that in fact “Adam” and Anthony are the same person. Anthony is someone who is a sex addict and has trouble dealing with his current reality: his pregnant wife. He does not want it. So in his mind he has created a different personality, “Adam” and the psychosis is so deep, he literally lives the “Adam” personality to the extreme of not recognizing his wife in public for example. What we see on screen isn’t literally happening, but happening in the mind of Anthony. It’s just that the way the film is made, it looks like each next scene comes after the one before it when in fact the next one could be happening at the same time as the one we just saw. These are my notes:
– “Adam” is trying to get into the casting building. In reality he didn’t come from his small apartment. That’s just the persona of the duality Anthony has created. I believe it is really Anthony playing along in his fantasy, but it is so deep that to us it seems like he has no idea.
– Why was there a question mark in the “Adam’s” phone number listed on the university’s website? That’s not a real number… or a real person then. Something else to add that “Adam” is not real. I’m sure it’s nothing important to the story of the film but was more for us to interpret.
– Anthony pretends to be “Adam” and calls his wife. She laughs, thinks it’s a joke and plays along. Then in the apartment when he hangs up the phone after “talking” to “Adam”, she asks who it was. He says it’s the same man from before. She laughs again and asks if he’s messing with her, because obviously it was Anthony on the phone hence why she asks if he’s seeing her again, whoever that is.
– Anthony back at the university because he’s a teacher. Gets a call from Anthony, so he’s playing the “Adam” role again. The fact that “Adam” is getting a phone call from Anthony suggests that it’s not real. Another fantasy playing in his head like a major daydream.
– Helen goes to the university to possibly find this man (Adam) Anthony was talking to, after she found the note in his jacket. She is shocked to see her husband Anthony totally pretending to be someone else and not recognize her. But if she saw online and on the note the words “Adam Bell” then Anthony must have created a fake identity just for the purpose to live out his fantasy and make it more real.
– After seeing “Adam” Helen calls Anthony. It just so happens that Anthony answers as soon as we see “Adam” walk past the wall into the building. If we had seen Anthony answer his phone while “Adam” was out on the bench still or in view, things would have clearly been different.
– Helen cries when she tells Anthony she went to see that guy, from the phone call. “What’s happening?” “I really don’t know what you are talking about?” “I think you know” Why would she say that? She knows about his mental games and that it was her husband truly pretending to be this “Adam” person.
– Just as the dream of the upside down naked woman with a spider head finishes, both “Adam” and Anthony wake up. “Adam” is wearing a grey shirt in bed and is alone. Anthony is shirtless and has Helen sleeping next to him. Adam sits on the floor in the room of boxes with his stuff from the past, or memories. Something suggesting a “room” inside Anthony’s brain.
– “Adam” meeting Anthony never happened. You could say it’s a metaphor for what is happening inside Anthony’s brain. The rubber band of his insanity is being pulled further as things seem to fall apart. “Adam” is frightened to what he sees because he doesn’t want to face Anthony’s reality. He prefers his own reality.
– When Anthony follows “Adam’s” girlfriend on the bus and then to work… That never happened either. Since in the next scene, we see Anthony sitting in his living room thinking as if in a day dream, I believe what we saw with the bus and her work, is all being played out inside Anthony’s mind while he sits there. But the filmmakers did such a great job in making it look like it’s just another scene because the living room scene is brief. If it was short what was that scene for then?
– When his mother says: “You have a respectable job… You should quit that fantasy of being a third-rate movie actor.” It’s very interesting that at this point we know that Anthony is a teacher and an actor on the side, but she is saying it to the “Adam” character since “Adam” isn’t wearing a wedding ring like Anthony does. That’s a little unclear.
– A huge spider over the city. The “threat” becomes bigger. “Adam” can’t understand what is happening or doesn’t want to face what can happen. Anthony is afraid of facing his reality once again. He doesn’t like his reality.
– Anthony is rehearsing in front of the mirror: “Did you f**k my wife?!” then saying “That’s good” while smiling. I believe he’s preparing for his future daydream. Another session in his living room or wherever. Also when he explains what he will do (while he’s alone, like showing us what he will say to Adam) he’s playing the following scene we see, in that instant in his mind.
– Anthony is pretending to be “Adam” and goes to Anthony’s apartment out of some revenge of daydream “Anthony” taking “Adam’s” girlfriend away. Anthony is clearly losing his mind at this point.
– “Adam” finds the same photo he has of himself, in Anthony’s apartment, only this one is not torn and is one of him and Helen. This suggests that the torn photo “Adam” has in one of his boxes is a clue to perhaps the life Anthony would like to have. Not having a wife, especially not a pregnant one. But a life of endless meaningless sex because Anthony is an addict. Clues like Helen asking if he’s seeing a woman again or his mother telling him he has enough trouble sticking to one woman prove this.
– Is Anthony while being “Adam” feeling guilty of daydreaming about “Adam’s” girlfriend while his pregnant wife is in the next room? Could this be why Anthony’s character falls apart and is left with the “Adam” character?
– Anthony’s character “dies” when “Adam’s” character is on the sofa with Helen. “Adam’s” character is crying and it is here where he finds a balance. It was a nice touch to add the accident on the radio, but “Adam” changes it just before we hear what happened. At this point he is where he should be. The one that likes being at home with his wife. The non addict. But he finds the confidential envelope, finds a new key inside and tells Helen he thinks he needs to go out (back to the sex club). Could this mean the psychosis cycle begins again?
– The ending is surreal. The giant spider is afraid of “Adam” when he goes in to see Helen. But we do not see Helen. I believe Helen and commitment represent the spider, and that “Adam” is not afraid of them like Anthony was. But now “Adam” or the balanced Anthony, has the decision to become off-balance Anthony once again.
This is my own interpretation from what I experienced. It is by no means the absolute explanation. If you search online “Enemy explained” you will find endless pages about people trying to figure it out. And it’s great seeing so many people engage about one film. That is the sign of a brilliant film.
Thank you for reading my review!
– Nick Andersen