A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The follow up film of any promising director is always surrounded by immense anticipation, expectation and pressure. There are many that fail, some that succeed and very few that triumph. It may be highly unfair, but Richard Ayoade’s sophomore feature was a highly anticipated release accompanied by unrealistically high expectations. To follow up a contemporary masterpiece such as “Submarine”, arguably one of the most prolific and impressive debut features of the last 20 years, Ayoade was under an immense cloud of pressure (self induced of course), but alas, he has struck again, this time with “The Double”, a psychological mind bender that focus on themes of identity and sameness.
Set in a seemingly fictional industrialised world that consists of archaic technology with innovatory and modern capabilities, “The Double” is based around a downtrodden office worker, Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), who learns of a newly appointment colleague, James (again, Eisenberg), who just so happens to be Simon’s doppelgänger.
Simon’s intrigue and uncomfortableness with his recently appointed peer leads to the two having a strange and convoluted relationship. The two are identical in appearance, however personality wise, they’re polar opposites. Simon is a dorky, shy and stuttering clerk whilst James is a confident, loud, magnetic, sexually adventurous presence that both influences and manipulates Simon.
There are endless examples to draw comparison from, most recently, Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy”, another psychological escapade that revolves around identity and discovery. Like “Enemy”, “The Double” seems to take a slightly darker route and challenge the audience’s own perception regarding who is who. Even though through the dialogue the film is simple to follow, it forces the audience to second guess themselves as nothing seems to be set in stone; it could, should and most likely does delve much deeper than whatever is initially thought.
It is also very difficult, near impossible, to look at “The Double” without drawing back onto Ayoade’s breakout debut “Submarine”. Like “Submarine”, there are heavy colour references that evoke splashes of symbolism every now and again. “The Double” is very dark, with the entire film taking place at night and under artificial lighting; an aesthetic feature that allows for sudden bursts of colour to work as effectively as they possibly can. The protagonists of both films are similar in a few ways. Both Oliver Tate and Simon are frustrated, outcast and unlucky in love; a seemingly common theme amongst not just Ayoade’s leads.
The film also draws on many camera techniques and cinematographic elements exhibited in “Submarine”. For example, the breaking of the fourth wall whilst reading a letter, blended with a slow track in towards the subject can be seen in both films, which works exceptionally well to capture mood and emotion (sometimes lack there of).
What is most similar to “Submarine” however is the cast itself. Craig Roberts, Yasmine Paige, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine all return to feature, this time with considerably smaller roles, some more radically contrasting than others.
Ayoade, who is most commonly known for his charismatic and goofy I.T. consultant Maurice Moss from “The I.T. Crowd” reunites once more with fellow cast members including Chris O’Dowd and Christopher Morris (Roy & Denholm Reynholm) whose performances, though incredibly brief, add an extra element of fun and whit to the film.
Lastly, although there isn’t an Alex Turner equivalent accompanying the film with harmonious acoustic melodies, the musical contribution is fantastic. The score is magnificent and encapsulating, whilst a brief cameo from Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis makes for some very enjoyable viewing.
Stylistically, “The Double” is immaculate. The imagery Ayoade is able to capture in each scene is so rich and mesmerising. The avant-garde style lighting mixed with numerous noir-inspired elements is so mysterious and engaging, it is fascinating when observing certain shots just thinking how Ayoade was able to manoeuvre light in so many ways. The intense use of shadows and the overall subtlety of it all really drives home the mystique of not only the characters, but also the locations they inhabit.
“The Double” has cemented Richard Ayoade as an up and coming director who means business. With two stupendous features to his name, Ayoade is placed in good stead for his directorial future, one that looks promising and prosperous. Not as captivating as “Submarine” but equally as clever, “The Double” is a superb follow up film that has not crumbled under the pressures of its predecessor. With many nuances and features drawn from “Submarine” as well as many new and unique stylistic features in both screenplay and cinematography, “The Double” is full of surprises and is one not be missed.