“I can see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I actually am and I know that I’m doing it but I’m incapable of what needs to be done.“
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The talented young director and Total Film columnist who brought the indie hit “Submarine” for you, Richard Ayoade returns to deliver his sophomore project—a more complicated work titled “The Double“. While his previous work depicts a conspicuous coming-of-age drama; his second work strips off everything he has in Submarine and focuses on an adult whose life is threatened by his doppelganger.
Based on Dostoevsky’s The Double, this film focuses on the life of a data-processing employee, Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), who works in a company led by The Colonel. He spends his day working, being alienated by everyone he knows, and admiring his neighbor, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). Just as he gets a chance to know Hannah, his mysterious proud doppelganger James (also played by Jesse Eisenberg) appears and steals everything away from Simon… including the chance to get to know Hannah.
Despite of his lack of originality in this sophomore project, Ayoade still proves that he’s one of the most talented young savant in cinema. How Ayoade gives Eisenberg a dual role reminds me to Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, how he construct his modern-retro noirscaped world reminds me to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and the grey tone within the storytelling reminds me to any works of Franz Kafka; yet, all of those define the best way to adapt Dostoevsky’s.
The other details in The Double also make good sense. Most obviously, casting Jesse Eisenberg to portray the “invisible” protagonist and the doppelganger at once obviously makes this adaptation a great ace; as Eisenberg can’t help chateau-ing the screen with both his clumsy and supple persona. In addition, picking Asian retro songs—like Kyo Sakamoto’s Sukiyaki or The Blue Comets’ Blue Chateau—to fill empty spaces between scenes is also a good point in making the film feels classic and classy.
The Double can be interpreted as anything. You can take it seriously, considering it as a story about identity; that Simon and James are just a reflection of someone’s fractured identity, troubled by alienating work atmosphere. However, you can say that Simon and James are, certainly, two different entities that trouble each other. Ayoade wraps the story neatly with emotions and witty dialogues, leaving everything ambiguous and perplexing, making it very divisive in interpretations.
Of the enigmatic tale about doppelganger and everything beyond, The Double is a real proof that cinema has a future in Ayoade. It’s not as appealing as Submarine, but The Double gains ground in returning the triumph of classic, avant-garde, satirical black comedy without being engulfed by its influences.
The Double (2014)
Drama, Thriller Running Time: 93 mins Directed by: Richard Ayoade Written by: Richard Ayoade, Avi Korine based on novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky Starred by: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor, Chris O’Dowd