Denis Villeneuve’s (Incendies, Prisoners) terrific adaptation of the Nobel Prize-winning author José Saramago’s novel The Double is the second take this year (following Submarine director Richard Ayoade’s The Double) on Dostoyevsky’s notoriously hard to adapt, existential tale.
Villeneuve shows with spare economy exactly what happens to a person’s psyche when they meet their doppelgänger and super-egos collide.
Reminiscent of early Cronenberg, particularly in its cold creepy disorientating use of the Toronto cityscape, Villeneuve captures brilliantly the unsettling banality of the central premise and with precision mines it for all the existential dread previous versions have failed to capture through, ironically enough, excessive self-consciousness.
Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is at home watching a DVD when he spots himself, or at least his exact double, in a bit part. Curiosity drives him to track down the actor and see if he is really as like himself as he appears. Of course he is more like Adam than Adam and the two men begin a battle of wits as they struggle to retain their own discrete identities – not to mention Adam’s wife.
Chilling, witty, absurdist and playful, it’s a real treat.