I shall be covering Enemy, checking up on its background, studying its motivations and attacking its positions to determine if it’s worth pursuing or poorly executed. So read on only if you’ve already seen Enemy, or don’t plan to.
Synopsis: This film is the story of a sex-crazed bloke who gives up his mistress and dream of becoming an actor in order to teach school and be a better husband to his pregnant wife. If anyone tries to tell you differently, tell them to come here. A lot. With their friends. I need the hits.
0:01:48 Al K Hall nudity alert: A pregnant woman (whom we will learn is his wife, Sarah Gadon as Helen) is sitting naked on a bed. This scene is placed at the beginning so non-intellectuals have a reason to stay.
0:02:17 Jake Gyllenhaal looking shorter than I thought and hairier than I remember.
0:04:52 Anthony (Jake Gyllenhaal plays two people – Anthony the actor and Adam the history teacher – who are the same person) uses a key to enter a room full of old and ugly men who are watching a woman masturbate on stage (Al K Hall nudity alert @ 0:02:51). Another woman brings out a serving tray with a dome and a huge spider crawls out after she takes off the top (both the one on the tray and the one on her body).
[Explanation: This spider represents ‘good/serious’ women, which is why a stripper is killing it with her high heel.]
0:06:14 Adam is a professor. He’s a good teacher – if he’s teaching boredom.
0:07:48 Adam’s girlfriend is called Mary (Mélanie Laurent). She’s the woman he left his wife (Helen) for, six months ago, before he knew his wife was pregnant. Good times, even better timing.
0:11:48 He rents a DVD? What century is this film set in?
0:15:08 WTF!? Mary asks him to come to bed but he stays up to watch the DVD and then leaps into bed and begins intercoursing Mary while she’s asleep until she makes him stop. This may be a first for a French woman.
0:16:22 Adam is dreaming of being in the movies. Literally.
0:17:32 He awakes from this dream and goes back to the DVD, fast forwarding until he finds a bellboy who is his doppelgänger, except better looking.
0:20:18 He finds himself on-line. Literally, not religiously.
[Explanation: Professor Adam suffers from a split personality and does not remember the period where he left his wife, moved into his empty apartment and stopped trying to become an actor.]
0:24:08 WTF!? Why is Adam afraid to visit the talent agency Anthony (his look-alike) works out of? And why must he wear sunglasses Zach Galifianakis would have looked comfortable wearing in The Hangover?
[Note: While at the agency, Adam picks up an envelope for Anthony; this will be important at the end of the film.]
0:29:44 After finding out where Daniel Saint Claire (Anthony’s stage name) lives, he calls the flat and a woman answers who is convinced our chap is her husband. (His voice isn’t wearing sunglasses.) It sounds like him because it is him, only he doesn’t know it.
0:32:08 He calls the number again and is happily surprised when a man answers and has “exactly the same voice” as his. Some people talk to themselves, I prefer to leave myself messages.
0:33:42 Anthony is telling his wife that Adam is a stalker, not another woman. Little does he know it’s not a stalker, but it is his better half.
[Explanation: Proof that Adam/Anthony is the same person is how seriously both Anthony and Helen think the situation is. Normally, if you were to meet your look-alike, there’d be jovial interest, not sheer panic.]
Helen: Are you seeing her?
Anthony: Helen, I don’t want to get into this.
Helen: Are you seeing her again?
The very pregnant wife is suspicious and accuses the actor of returning to his mistress. She doesn’t believe him, and we see why he failed as an actor when he tries to convince her otherwise.
0:40:37 Helen goes to the university to see Adam for herself. She’s sad because she didn’t order a double.
0:42:17 After Adam doesn’t recognize her during a conversation, she conveniently waits for him to exit the shot before calling Anthony. Helen never sees both men – Anthony and Adam – together, because they’re the same bloke.
Are you OK?
WTF!? He’s been watching his wife sob for over four hours and finally, in the middle of the night, he asks her this!? Next time he’ll be asking dead people at funeral viewings, “A little under the weather?”
0:45:48 Al K Hall nudity alert: One of the Jake Gyllenhaals has a nightmare of a naked woman with a spider head walking upside down. Still not as weird as the people on the bus after 11pm.
[Explanation: This spider woman represents whores / mistresses. #bewbs]
0:47:18 Adam goes to his appointment to meet Anthony at a small, out-of-the-way hotel. This strikes me as unusual, as I don’t meet strangers in hotels simply because we bear a striking resemblance. Why I do meet strangers in hotels cannot be discussed on the open Internet.
[Explanation: Adam and Anthony are only shown together when they’re alone – no other character ever sees both of them in the same place because they are, in fact, the same chap.]
I told you.
Adam to Anthony when Anthony realizes how similar they look. The mood is not one of surprise, but rather of ‘why are we doing this in the dark with the curtains drawn?’
0:52:34 The chaps discover they not only resemble each other, but also have the same scars. This disturbs the professor enough that he pulls out. Of the situation.
0:53:31 Anthony’s motorcycle was parked beside the teacher’s car, and now pulls along beside him on the motorway. Scenes in which the men meet are all in Jake’s head.
0:56:34 Anthony follows Mary (Adam’s mistress). He gets in the same bus as she does, even if neither of them is poor.
0:59:46 Adam tells his troubles to his mum (Isabella Rossellini). I wish I could do this (tell my troubles to Isabella Rossellini, though my mum is a lovely bloke).
1:00:54 His mum talks to Adam about blueberries, his empty flat and tells him to give up his fantasy of becoming a third-rate movie actor, proving once more that Adam and Anthony are one in the same man.
1:01:06 Speaking of cobwebs in his mind, he’s dreaming the giant spider in the city scene from the poster. There are a lot of spiders in this film. Must be symbolic of something, like how this film bugs me.
[Explanation: This spider represents mothers, as its design is based on a statue called ‘Maman’ (‘Mother’ in French), by Louise Bourgeois.]
1:04:44 Anthony suspects that Adam slept with Helen, so he confronts Adam thusly:
You brought my wife into this, man, so I’m going to bring your girlfriend into the picture, as well. You want me out of your life? This is what’s going to happen first. You’re going to give me your clothes and your car, I’m going to take your girlfriend on a little romantic getaway. I’m going to bring her back home tomorrow, and then I’m going to come back here and I’m going to bring back all your stuff and I’m going to disappear from your life forever. Then we will be even.
In a world where ‘even’ signifies ‘stupid’.
1:08:56 The doorman of Anthony’s tower block lets Adam into the building and escorts him to Anthony’s flat, thinking he’s Anthony. In the lift, he prattles on about how he enjoyed “the other night”, leading us to believe he accompanied Anthony to the naked lady spider show. He also says he’d like Anthony to invite him back, as the locks there are changed after each show. The doorman has a lot of keys, except the one he wants. Ironic much?
1:14:34 Al K Hall nudity alert: Quick view of pregnant woman’s milk sacks. The baby bump is almost certainly false. Al K Hall is still deliberating on the milk sacks.
1:19:05 Either there’s a mistake in the editing continuity or the pregnant wife magically put on a bra under her shirt so fast the camera wasn’t able to get it. Like a lot of things in this film.
Did you have a good day at school?
Helen lets Adam know she knows it’s him and then goes to sleep, like the rest of us.
[Explanation: Adam has returned to his wife.]
1:19:47 Al K Hall nudity alert: Mélanie Laurent hasn’t the same qualms about intercoursing with a clone.
[Explanation: Adam is imagining this scene, and it symbolizes his breakup with Mary (she notices the imprint of a wedding ring on his finger).]
1:20:04 Mary jumps out of bed because in the heat of passion she was analysing Anthony’s finger and saw the band from where the ring had been worn, meaning Adam has returned to his wife. That said, if you find yourself wondering what the your partner’s fingers look like, the sex can’t be that great.
1:22:37 Helen seduces Adam, her good old husband. Fact: 97.4% of women will always cheat on their husband if it can be with their husband.
1:22:44 Anthony crashes the car he’s in with Mary, as she wanted to be driven home. What does it say about a film when the accidents are the most believable scenes?
1:24:11 The next morning, the radio reports on the accident and Adam is safe and sound in Anthony’s skin.
[Explanation: This accident never really happened, it’s simply a fantasy Adam has constructed to symbolize the fact he left Mary to return to his wife. Mary’s dead to him.]
1:25:16 In the envelope Adam had picked up for (24:08) and then given to Anthony, which Anthony had placed in a coat pocket, Adam finds a key, presumably to the spider lady sex show. #outofkey
Helen, did you plan on doing something tonight? Because I think I have to go out…
In other words, all of the soft spoken, professorial attitude was superficial because all Adam needs is the key to sex and he’s opening the door, letting Anthony back in. Men are so base. #thankgod
1:26:38 Lol, Adam walks into the bedroom to find out why Helen isn’t answering him and he finds a giant spider there. He doesn’t panic at all, or even call someone to come over and kill it for him.
Here’s your chance to help me! Adam’s expression is rather vague upon seeing the spider. What do you think he’s thinking? Watch this GIF and leave a comment explaining what’s going through Adam’s mind.
[A reader called N commented below what I consider to be the best explanation yet of this scene. The look, N explains, is one of realisation. Adam finally understands what is happening. He, in a sense, remembers his other half and this moment is the click where everything falls into place – including his two halves.]
[Note: I used Chris Stuckmann‘s excellent video Enemy EXPLAINED – Movie Review (SPOILERS) for help in this review. One reader, Nostalgic Pen, also referenced an excellent article by Forrest Wickman in Slate, where he states that Enemy is “a parable about what it’s like to live under a totalitarian state without knowing it.” The article supports this point well.]
- WTF!?’s: 5 bitter ones
- When to Follow: You might enjoy this if you thought Fight Club was too exciting and Under the Skin was too interesting.
- Where’s This Found: To misquote E.B. White, “Explaining a film is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” Out of a possible 10, I have 3 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: Please be so good as to leave a comment as to what you think is crossing Adam’s mind in the final scene of the film (see GIF). Also, if you have a different interpretation of the film, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section!