Friday, May 02, 2014

Enemy (2013) Analysis Notes Part II

“Enemy” is a 2013 movie directed by Denis Villanueve and adapted by Javier Gullón from José Saramago's 2002 novel “The Double”.  It features Jake Gyllenhaal in the role of two men of opposite characteristics who look exactly alike, down to their scars. The movie is stylish, cryptic, and surreal.

The following are my notes in attempting to decipher it. I’m sure some of it—if not a lot of it—is just me reading too much into the film. But I was approaching the material with the intention of not missing anything that may be significant.

ENEMY (2013)
Notes Part II:

Adam finds out the Anthony's talent agency is called Volga. Now, writers—especially writers trying to be cryptic—usually don't merely pull names out of their asses. I've pointed out possible reasons why Adam and Anthony were named as they were. So why was the talent agency named Volga? It’s the longest river in Europe. It’s the national river of Russia. Russia can be seen as a symbol for duality since it is the crux between the East and the West? I know, I’m reachin’. I’m stumped here. Maybe the writer WAS just pulling names out of his ass.

Adam then rushes to the DVD rental shop to find two more movies Anthony appeared in, "Call Me L8R" and "Passenger Without a Ticket". I must admit that, again, I'm stumped as to the relevance of these titles. But I think the poster on the wall is a clue. It's the classic science fiction flick, "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman". In that 1950s movie, the protagonist—a wealthy heiress—has a philandering husband who wants her to be sent back to a mental hospital so he can take control of her millions. When she grows into a giantess via alien machinations, she kills both her husband and his mistress. Remember this for when we get to the end of Anthony.

Adam watches one of these movies, although we never know which one this is. It shows Anthony being arrested by riot cops in an urban setting. It's a scene we see a lot of when people protest their governments. Especially in totalitarian states. What I find more intriguing is that Anthony is supposed to have played a waiter in "Call Me L8R" and a train passenger in "Passenger Without a Ticket". The man getting arrested doesn't look like a waiter and isn't on a train. Is this another movie Anthony appeared in, something not listed in his short filmography? Or is it a movie at all? Is this footage of Anthony actually being arrested by cops? One thing we must take note of is that Anthony in this scene has a beard. I'll get back to this issue later.

Disturbed by what he's seen, Adam takes a shower. Afterwards, he fishes some old photos from boxes stacked in a corner of his apartment. These unopened boxes and the rolled up phone cable we saw in an earlier scene give me an impression that Adam just moved here. Just how long has he been living here? How long has he been with his girlfriend? How long has he been teaching in that school? Anyway, the picture Adam takes out of the box is one where he didn't have a beard. He wants to compare it to the picture of Anthony on the Internet. This makes me ask: is the man in the picture that Adam holds really the history teacher? What if that's actually Anthony? What if Adam doesn't really have a picture? Also worth noting is that this old photo is torn. There's obviously a woman with her arms around the man in the photo, but half of the photo has been ripped off so we don't know who this woman is. The only clue we have as to the identity of this woman is her thin bracelet.

The next day, Adam seems to be agitated in class. He leaves the school.

That night, Adam is again looking at Anthony's page in the Volga Talent Agency website when Adam's cellular phone rings. His mother is calling. Adam doesn't answer it. As the phone buzzes, Adam looks at the address of the talent agency.

The next day, he goes and buys a pair of flashy sunglasses. We'll know later why he picked the most garish pair he found.

He parks his car outside the talent agency's building and eats pizza as he waits for the opportunity to slip into the building. When he finally succeeds, he is met by the security guard. This is the first time Adam learns that his double's name is Anthony. The garish shades seem to have worked. Adam does look like some two-bit actor. The guards says he didn't recognize Anthony because of the beard and that it's been six months since Anthony has visited the agency. Now, remember that mysterious movie where Anthony—or the character he plays—is being arrested by the riot cops? He has a beard there. Anyway, pressed for a reason for his visit on a Saturday, Adam fumbles and asks if there was something left for him. There actually is an envelope with Anthony's name on it. Adam takes the envelope and leaves. Back in his car, Adam opens the envelope. Inside is a smaller envelope with Anthony's real name and address. It's marked PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL. Adam doesn't open this envelope.

Adam arrives at Anthony's posh condo building and leaves his car in the largely empty parking lot. Again there's that feeling that the city has been depopulated. From the parking lot, he counts the number of floors in the building and looks at an open window where he assumes Anthony lives. He suddenly turns around, feeling as if someone is watching him. No one there. He goes to a nearby payphone and calls Anthony's house. A woman picks up the phone. It's Anthony's wife. Apparently, Anthony and Adam don't only look like each other, they also have the same voice. Anthony's wife thinks her husband is playing a prank on her. When he tries to tell her that he's not Anthony, the woman starts getting upset. Adam hangs up, shaken. It’s one thing when two people look alike. It's another when they also sound alike.

Back in his apartment, Adam calls Anthony's home again. He finally speaks to the actor. Adam starts sounding like some creepy fan so Anthony hangs up. Adam dials again and tells Anthony that they should meet.

In Anthony's condo unit, we finally see the actor. He looks exactly like Adam but has better clothes, a swankier home, and carries himself with more confidence.

An aside about names again:

Anthony's wife is Helen. My first thought is of Hellenistic Greece, the period in Ancient Greek history after the death of Alexander the Great and before Rome succeeded in annexing Greece, thus ending Greek independence. Greek and Roman mythology have the same gods under different names because Roman culture is the offspring of Greek (at least, that’s how the legend of Aeneas tells it). If we think of Anthony as the original and as the Greek pantheon while Adam is the doppelganger and the Roman pantheon, this may be a foreshadowing of how the offspring/copy will overpower the parent/original.

Adam's girlfriend is Mary. Etymologically speaking, the name “Mary” came from the Aramaic “Maryam”. This may have come from the Egyptian “Mry” (due to Jewish captivity in Ancient Egypt), which means “beloved”. Or perhaps “Meri-Amun”, translated as “beloved of (the Egyptian patron deity of Thebes) Amun”. Amun, remember, became a prominent Ancient Egyptian god and was fused with the sun god Ra, creating Amun-Ra, a supreme being comparable to YHWH or Zeus. Later, the pharaoh Akhenaten decided to make the worship of Aten (another aspect of Ra) the official religion of the kingdom. Perhaps this is again a foreshadowing of how the copy will overpower the original.

Back to the movie. Anthony's wife suspects that the actor was speaking to a woman, or maybe a woman's jealous husband. We can gather from the exchange that Anthony has been unfaithful before and Anthony's wife thinks he's seeing her again. He walks out, exasperated. Cut to a wide shot showing that Helen is pregnant.

That night, Anthony Googles Adam's name and finds his contact information from his university’s website. Meanwhile, Helen finds a piece of paper in Anthony's discarded pants. On it, Anthony has written Adam's name. Helen also Googles the name and find's Adam's contact info.

The next day, Adam shows up in class. He's early. There are no students yet. As he prepares his lecture, we see a diagram on the board showing how chaos leads to order when it is deciphered. There are also some scribbled words indicating that power is security. Anthony calls Adam and arranges a meeting on Sunday at the Breezeway Inn outside the city. Adam agrees with fear and excitement. He needs to get some air.

Meanwhile, Helen arrives outside the lecture building. She wants to see who this Adam is. She sees him sitting on a bench to get some air. She cannot believe it. He looks exactly like her husband. She sits on another bench. Adam, not knowing who she is, says hello to her. He asks her how many months she's pregnant. Six, she says. As he leaves to go back to his class, Adam tells Helen: You never know how your day is going to turn out. Helen calls Anthony just to see if she's being bullshitted. Anthony answers the phone.

The strange thing though is that Anthony only answers the phone about half a second after Adam disappears into the building. We are left guessing if indeed Adam is just Anthony pretending to be someone else. Maybe he's living a double life? Also, Helen is six months pregnant. Remember that Anthony hasn't been seen in Volga Talent Agency for the last six months? What's he been doing since then?

Helen gets home. Anthony arrives after her, panting and sweating. He says he's been out jogging, and that he was trying to outrun a younger man. He opens the refrigerator and finds his blueberries gone. He goes on about how Helen should eat the organic blueberries and that he can't shoot the ones left in the ref for a shoot.

That night, Adam asks Helen what's wrong. She admits that she saw Adam earlier. She asks Anthony, what's happening. Anthony says he doesn't know what Helen is talking about Helen, tears welling in her eyes, and says: “I think you know.”

Dream sequence: A hallway, the same hallway leading to the dimly-lit room with the naked ladies. The camera is upside down. A naked woman is walking down this hallway, also upside down to our perspective. She has the head of a spider. She passes by Adam, who is upright in our perspective. Why is the scene upside-down? Because we are seeing things wrong? Because we got to know Adam first, we are assuming that he's the real thing and that Anthony may be the doppelganger. But let's remember that Anthony is the one who seems more real. His wife is more emotionally tangible. At two other persons know him, the security guard at Volga and his companion in the dimly-lit room with the naked women. Adam, on the other hand, lives in an apartment that looks barely lived in, has a girlfriend he doesn't connect with and an unnamed mother who doesn't take him seriously. While Anthony seems unlikable, he's understandably human and has human flaws. Adam seems like an imperfect copy of a human being.

Thought: What if it was Anthony who was visiting the woman we assume is Adam’s mother? Adam IS Anthony. Or Adam is a CONSTRUCT of Anthony, either as a conscious effort of deceitfulness or an unconscious desire to live another life.

Adam wakes up, startled by the dream. Anthony is also sitting up in bed, apparently startled as well. Maybe from the same dream. Of course, we'll learn later that this isn't happening at the same time and that this isn't Anthony but Adam sleeping with Helen. But more on this later.

Sunday. Adam goes to the inn where he's supposed to meet Anthony. He still has the envelope for the actor, unopened. He waits for Anthony in a room. Anthony appears in a leather jacket (his mode of transportation is a motorcycle). Anthony asks Adam to show his hands. They have the same hands. They have the same scars. Anthony suggests that they may be brothers. Adam isn't buying this. The teacher is starting to freak out and thinks this may be a mistake. He gives Anthony the envelope and leaves. It's worth noting that while Anthony and Adam can see and speak to each other, they are never seen together by a third party throughout the movie. On the road, a man on a motorcycle rides past Adam's car. We assume that the man is Anthony but we don't see his face beneath the dark visor of his motorcycle helmet.

Back home, Anthony tells his wife that Adam won't be bothering them again. In the bathroom, Anthony appears shaken.

Next day, it's Anthony's turn to stalk Adam. He sees Adam with his girlfriend, Mary. Anthony follows Mary, gets into a bus with her, looks at her with lust, and even notices her stiletto heels. He apparently has a thing for stiletto heels. He watches her as she works.

Adam visits his mother, who seems to be a wealthy painter. She dismisses Adam's story. She offers him blueberries. He says he doesn't like blueberries. She doesn't want to hear any more of Adam's story. Cryptically, she tells him, “You should quit that fantasy of being a third-rate movie actor.” Again, I ask, is Anthony the woman’s son?

Then comes the second strangest scene in the movie. See you in Part III.

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