If you’re ever in the mood for something completely different to engage your mind and senses, check out this head trip. Based on a novella of the same name by Dostoyevsky, The Double is set in an alternate and very grim version of urban North America, not unlike the world of Giliam’s Brazil. It’s a dark Kafka-esque world where everyone lives in tiny apartments and works in tiny cubicles and where our protagonist (Simon James, played by Jesse Eisenberg) can’t seem to get anyone to notice his existence, although the woman he has a crush on (Hannah, played by Mia Wasikowska) does smile at him. Simon’s identity card has stopped functioning and he finds himself marginalized more each day (to the point that he is told outright that he does not, in fact, exist). Since he tends to be extremely quiet and is very insecure, he has no way to fight this.
(spoiler alert) Until his double (James Simon) is hired. James is everything Simon is not, quickly becoming the most popular person in the office, even though Simon does all his work, and sweeping Hannah off her feet in a matter of minutes. This double is all charm and no conscience and Simon quickly grows to hate him (especially when no one except him notices that James is his double). But there is something strange about James, because when Simon hits him, his own nose starts to bleed. The Double gets darker from there.
Richard Ayoade’s film tells an intriguing and clever (maybe too clever) story and I loved the dark, green oppressive setting, the weird and sometimes discordant score, the humour (there’s lots of it) and the acting (Wallace Shawn is a blast as Simon’s boss), but the whole was not, for me, as good as the parts. Unlike Sam Lowry in Brazil, one of my all-time favourite films, I could not identify with Simon in a helpful way, nor with the relationship between him and Hannah. The whole film felt discordant, which is no doubt intentional, but I just couldn’t make it work the way it was supposed to, even though it's my kind of film. Nevertheless, The Double was something unexpected and thought-provoking and I enjoyed the trip. ***+. My mug is up.